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Can a legacy of shame be a source of healing for others?

grandpa

I always knew the story. I had heard it a fair amount. It was one of those things I heard as a fact, sometimes as the backdrop for why my father’s family suffered misfortune, other times just as a peg in the chronology of my father’s childhood. 

 

My paternal grandfather accepted a job on the Brooklyn docks as a guard of sorts. It was the time of the Great Depression. Jobs were scarce. This was a great job — a boon. And he blew it. Because on his very first day my grandfather accepted a bribe to look the other way while some guys smuggled in some goods, which may have been black market items, but regardless not paying the tax was illegal, so my grandfather lost this coveted job. The fallout was intense. He could not find a job for weeks, or was it months? The main image I carry from this period is that my father, who was an adolescent at the time, sat in the basement sewing burlap sacks and bringing them to the local store and getting a nickel a bag. That nickel meant alot. It paid for the family’s food at times. They never starved but they were all hungry. Hungry to eject themselves past this horrible stain, which my grandfather never forgave himself for doing.

 

This story weaved its way through me. I marinated on this story. I focused on the image of my father sewing burlap sacks. In my story he sewed them by candlelight, having lost the electricity to illuminate the house. I added this as an embellishment to accentuate the pain of the whole scenario. Otherwise I buried this story until it surfaced in a rather unexpected way.

 

I was going through a period of commuting to libraries to perform an original kids show in somewhat remote suburbs of Philadelphia. This was before GPS and I would print out my mapquest directions of the destination, estimate how long it might take me, head out, and proceed to get lost. You may think it’s not possible to get lost if you have directions, and it’s the middle of the day and there’s enough light to read the paper. But I was great at this. Time would get closer and closer to show time. I would panic, then I’d make more mistakes. Oh no, oh no! I am lost. I don’t have the number for the venue. Oh no, oh no! In my family on time is 10 minutes early, so being late was sacrilegious for me. 

 

After a particularly bad incident of a super late arrival for one of these performances, I made my way back home, without even looking at the directions, then sat in my coaching office and cried and faced into the awful feelings in my gut. I realized I was sabotaging myself. The show was adorable, sweet, fabulous. The only way I could mess up was being late, so I kept being late. Why would I keep doing that to myself?! I sat and breathed and listened. I really wanted to know. And what came up was that I had to mess up like my grandfather did. I was trying to replicate his shame. I was successful in replicating his shame. I was able to imagine his shame, because by doing this I had my own. I kept welcoming the waves of sadness and despair and loss. I cried for my grandfather and the forgiveness he withheld from himself his whole life. He became a lawyer but never let himself practice law. His shame was so deep he couldn’t let himself be really seen. He needed to hide. I imagined him next to me, us holding hands. My gruffest grandfather, I recalled how his blue eyes softened when we’d hold hands his last year of life when he headed into his 92nd year. I cried and told him how sorry I was that he had never forgiven himself, but it was time to accept the shame and move through it. I told him I needed to feel it now so I could move through it. I told him I was sorry he had not had the chance to do it, but I would do it now, for both of us. I felt a weight lift from my whole being. 

 

I forget that this story can be useful to others. It was so monumental for me. It was completely transformational for me. I was never late to a gig again. I ended that pattern. I shared this story with a client recently, indicating that sometimes a pattern which restricts us may originate in our families before we even existed. The following session the client fixed his eyes on me and he said, “I feel so differently about you ever since you shared that story. I think you can hear my shame. I trust you to help me through it now.” He is indeed moving through it, even laughing about some old patterns which caused him to lose his ideal job a decade ago. But he is now letting himself move forward again. As we all must.

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Success Story

I’ve been coaching a woman in her twenties for a couple of years. When we began together the main issue was that her family and she were majorly entrenched about who was right about how she should live her life. They could not stop fighting. She had fled to a country in the Middle East to get as far away as possible from them, and was working at a job that covered her bills but just barely. As a successful college grad, her parents were deeply disappointed. “We know she can do so much better,” they appealed to me. “Can’t you help her get a better job?” We met as a group over Skype. Historically there had been some dynamics in the family where she did not feel she was being honored and treated well by her parents. We addressed those and her parents pledged to do better by her.

Things started to improve and eventually she decided to move back to the United States, and even live with her parents so they could have more time together. But then what she encountered was that she could not get a job easily. Despite having worked in Washington DC and then abroad, somehow she could not get any traction this side of the Atlantic. She despaired. We only saw each other a couple of times during that year in her life. Over email I advised her to keep applying to jobs. She must have sent her resume out 100 times. Day after day, month after month, she could not find work. Conflicts with her parents got heated. Her self-esteem took a hit. But she did not give up and she eventually landed a job in Boston. The job paid about $60,000. It was enough to afford her to have her own small apartment in the United States for the first time in her adult life. She applied herself completely and within a couple of months had proven herself as an exceptional worker.

But as she worked and worked she noticed that people around her were compensated at a much higher rate compared to her. She could not understand it. The corporation was structured in such a way that she could only be bumped a very small percentage of her salary from year to year. “At this rate how will I ever get what I actually deserve?” she asked me. and this my dear reader is the point of the story. The point I really need you to listen and understand how we create what we want even when we are at a disadvantage.

I told her “I know that this is unfair. And I also hear that the ways for you to advance seem very narrow and limited. But what I want you to do is commit to receiving what you actually deserve.” She told me what she deserved was closer to $80,000 but that that was impossible. I asked her but what do you deserve? And she said “Actually I would love to get $100,000 but I’m never going to get it at this job.“

So I told her to be willing to get a different job at a different company at that rate. I told her maybe it is possible you could get that at this job in some capacity, but the most important thing is to commit to getting it somewhere. And to make friends with that process. She agreed.

In the coming weeks she got an unfair and unjustified review at work. Again she was so upset. I told her “commit to a job where you are well-treated.” She bitterly withstood watching others be green lit for bonuses and salary increases, some receiving $5,000. I told her she had to  hold on to knowing she deserved great treatment and more money.

Then she was finally transferred to a department where her boss appreciated her. She stopped having to overwork. She received a great review just a month ago and therefore was approved for a modest raise.  She embraced all these things with gratitude. But she confided in me, that it still was not what she really believed she deserved. I concurred. So again we forged a commitment that she would step into a new job within the next 3 to 6 months where she was being paid at a much higher rate whether at this company  or another. Then last night she called me for her session. “I have the greatest news,” she told me “you have to be sitting down.”

“I got a new job in the same company at a different department. I’ll be doing similar work but at a whole other level of compensation. I will be receiving a $26,000 pay increase!”

It was good I was sitting down, but it was on my bouncy ball so I bounced up and down a while. I told her I completely believed in her and she deserved it. We spent the rest of the session going through what her new responsibilities would be and how she would handle an upcoming business trip abroad. Someone else would be paying for her to see the world.

When we started together three years ago she was paid about $20,000 a year. She is now going to be making almost five times that. How much money we make at a job is not the only thing that’s important in life. Probably what’s even more important is how good my client feels about herself. How she is self-sufficient and has an inner knowing of her greatness that’s rooted in her now that is unshakable. To have that great feeling along with her ideal salary is the culmination of her blending her positive self-regard with allowing the universe to support her in all ways.

I am now in my 23rd year of coaching. I have coached hundreds of people all around the world. And all of them have achieved amazing things. I can’t always predict whether it will be solely on an emotional, financial, or spiritual level, but when you commit to ongoing coaching with me you expand your greatness, contribute in the world, and great things happen for you that are often beyond what you can imagine.

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Walt Witcover: A Bathtub

I was an actress studying in NYC. I did research to see with whom I should study. Many folks I knew studied with whomever was most popular and whose students went on to star on tv shows. I chose Walt Witcover, whose students ranged from Jane Alexander to John Leguizamo. No one outside of the theatre world has ever known who I am talking about when I drop his name in Philadelphia, but Walt was the real deal. He studied with Lee Strasberg, won three Obie’s for directing and he was so adorable. There were only 5 students in his class. He was about 70 when I studied with him. He’d bring his teacup into class. He’d wax poetic about what it takes to be an artist, what it was like to teach Ernest Borgnine, Jerry Stiller or Dominic Chianese (Uncle Junior on the Sopranos, with whom I actually worked years later.)
But here’s the thing I want to tell you that I learned from Walt. For class we gathered in the studio. Each week we were working on something: sense memory, the vocal quality of our character, a costume piece.
One day, I performed a monologue. I looked up at him, waiting to hear his pronouncement. Walt stirred his tea.
“Is it the first drop of water or the last drop of water that makes the bathtub overflow?” I leaned towards saying it was the last, but I knew better than to make a hasty reply and I waited to hear what Walt would say.
After several moments he put his spoon down. “All of them! It takes all of them!” He enthused.
Sometimes I am searching for the right thing to say or do. I want things to work artistically or just in my life and I think of Walt and how he trained me to be an artist that fills a whole bathtub. We don’t always know why we are filling it, or when it will be full, but knowing that all these moments and pieces add up has given me the impetus to keep going, especially in uncertain times.
Thank you so much Walt!
Walt Witcover (August 24, 1924/November 15, 2013)

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Meg Zocco

I was just a freshman at Wesleyan University, but I wanted out. It made no sense. I loved WESLEYAN. I had been looking forward to being there for so long. Back at Stuyvesant HS my friend Danny Grant, who was a year ahead of me, returned from his visit there exclaiming that he knew that not only he but I would someday attend Wes. Fast forward to my early decision acceptance. Everything was set.
In my first semester I took physics, directed experiences in acting, Spanish Literature, and intro to sociology. I also signed up to be one of the student representatives on the EPC, the Educational Planning Council, which was comprised of tenured faculty, lifetime administrators and two student reps. There was one student rep and I was the other. I was in over my head. I was expected to weigh in on policy at the EPC, and then in classes I was a guinea pig (actor) for scenes from classic American plays directed by juniors and seniors, read Latin American literature in Spanish, and was expected to understand physics on the college level. My head swirled. I chose all these things. They genuinely interested me. The only trouble was I could not find myself anywhere in there. I had been an A+ student at Stuy. But here at Wesleyan I was expected to engage because of my own genuine interest. Trouble was I had none.
Enter Meg Zocco. Meg Zocco was the Dean for the incoming Freshman class. I knew her from letters sent before I ever reached campus. But then face to face with her during summer orientation I learned she was there to assist me to get acclimated. She brought the singer songwriter Christine Lavin — whom I loved!— to perform for us at the Center for the Arts. She guided us into a circle and then had us sit down and feel the support of the person behind us. Meg and I would wave as we passed each other on High Street. I pretended I didn’t need her.
Trouble is I liked her. I was always curious about her. She was insightful and beautiful and a little edgy. She seemed to be deeply self respecting while also getting her job done. How did she do that?
And so one day, as I struggled to comprehend Isabel Allende’s Casa de Los Espiritus, I found myself waiting outside Dean Zocco’s door to grab what I thought would just be a few minutes of Meg’s time. But once she ushered me into her office, to sit in the heavy brown wooden furniture, I sunk into a deeper truth.
“I don’t want to be here anymore.” I blinked, shocked at my own admission. What was I saying? I loved WESLEYAN. I was passionate. I loved all my classes. I was directed by Dar Williams in a scene from ENDGAME by Samuel Beckett. I was in love with the people. I made lifelong friends with Andrew Boorstyn, Nikki Hubbard and my other housemates at Greenhouse the first day! My parents and I were captured in a picture on the cover of the guide for parents’ weekend. I was literally the cover girl for WESLEYAN.
“What is hard about being here?” Meg leaned in with zero shame or judgement.
“I love WESLEYAN, but I don’t know why I’m here. It makes no sense to me. I worked so hard to get here.”
“Maybe it’s not the right moment,” Meg offered. “Do you think you need something else?” Again, Meg left so much space. She waited.
“I can’t go home because my parents won’t let me just drop out. I need to have a plan. I need something. I don’t know what to do.”
And then, Meg Zocco gave me a life lesson. It is a life lesson that I have used with hundreds of coaching clients over the years since then. She said, “make a list of the reasons to leave and the reasons to stay. List all the pros and cons.” I did. “Now Jennifer, try the totality of each scenario on. Which is the one that feels right?”
And I sat there facing the two choices and I didn’t want to drop out of WESLEYAN, but I could see clearly for the first time I could not stay. I was 18 and had made my first life choice as a semi-adult.
“Sometimes it’s not clear which is the best choice to make, but we do the best we can to make the choice that we can live with,” Meg offered.
I felt relieved and terrified. Meg assured me I had actually figured out what to do.
“But my parents won’t approve of this,” I told her. “They will kill me.” I told her. “Not necessarily!” She winked.” Let me talk to them.” I don’t know what she said to reassure my parents that I was not completely irresponsible and to permit me to live another day. And I don’t know why in my memory they somehow instantaneously materialized on campus. I can picture them there, in Dean Zocco’s office, unhappily accepting my decision. Yes, they were disappointed. You can’t always have everything!
I proceeded to devise a plan. I found a job through the career planning center as an aide at Perkins School for the Blind (where Helen Keller studied) where I worked with deaf blind retarded children. I secured a job, housing, income and time to better listen to who I was and what I needed. I saved my money and when I completed my internship I headed to Aberdeen Scotland to be in the Leaveners theatre company and participate in an international theatre festival. Then I traipsed through Spain by myself to get closer to Unamuno and Lorca and all the other writers I had only studied in books. Come August I was ready to return to Wesleyan. I studied theatre, Spanish, and became a women’s studies major because I now could hear my true self and I really wanted to hear and tell women’s stories of how they changed their own and others’ lives. And I completed my degree in 3.5 years so I somehow got my education discounted so at least I managed to get that bonus for my parents.
Meg Zocco. Does she know how much she changed my life? Does she know how much she helps every person she touches in the Wesleyan community? And how we in turn touch countless other lives? She has moved through a variety of positions at Wes over the years, but 33 years later she is still there. Now in parent relations, working with parents of students, some who were once Wes students themselves. Is it even possible to measure the impact of all she has brought to these relationships? I am just one student out of a class of 700 in one of those years. She personally supported, counseled and mentored me. She changed my life so I was able connect with and honor myself. And I know she’s done that for countless others.

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Spilling The Milk


I
n June I was out in Detroit to give a presentation about how to resolve any conflict using the Karpman triangle. (You may think you don’t know what I am referring to, but you probably do. It’s when we recognize we are either playing the villain, rescuer or victim in a conflict and with that awareness we free ourselves from being stuck in these roles.) Once I finished the power point I had 3 hours before my flight home, so I secreted myself away to the Detroit Institute of Arts. I started with the Diego Rivera murals of the auto industry, caught some contemporary sculpture of the city skyline made from baseball bats, and made my way through the impressionists. While in the contemporary section I turned a corner and spied a Marina Abramovic video entitled  “Spilling the Milk.” Here’s what a cool art publication had to say about it:
“In the Abramovic video, included in her widely acclaimed 2010 MoMA, New York, retrospective, the artist continues her earlier themes but places them within the tradition of seventeenth-century Dutch genre painting. A luminous window lights a glowing kitchen as Abramovic attempts to hold a brim-filled bowl of shimmering milk without spilling it. The video’s scene recalls the visual impression of works such as Vermeer’s The Milkmaid (1657) with its use of everyday subject matter to portray the intersection of sensuality and spirituality at the root of human experience. Yet the concentration and strength necessary to translate this moving image into the ideal, suspended stillness of a Vermeer painting tests the limits of the artist’s fortitude and the audience’s expectations.” — From Artweek.LA
As I studied her, people gathered on the bench opposite, and to either side of the screen. More kept pooling around the piece, illumined by the projection. It was literally a crowd favorite, the growing audience gathering to witness this milk carrying/spilling event. A mother and three children peered on. “Is she actually moving? Or is it freeze framed?” the girl asked. ”I think she’s going to drop it!” one of the boys predicted. “It’s just like that, isn’t it?” the mother confided to me. “Mothering. It takes everything not to drop it all.” Abramovic, the artist, peered into the milk in her bowl, willing herself to hold still, despite the demands of gravity. “Funny you should bring up mothering,” I leaned over and whispered to the woman. “She actually had a very difficult relationship with her mother. She wanted her mother’s attention, and rarely got it.”
We turned back to the video. What made it so compelling? We hoped she wouldn’t drop the bowl. We also wanted to see her drop the bowl! We hoped she would shatter the quietly oppressive domestic scene. This tiny drama pulled us all in for almost 13 minutes. It ended with extra sloshing from the bowl and then a fade out to black. No clear climax or finality. “Is that it?” someone said walking away.
I stayed, watched the piece again, and took this picture. The crowd dispersed and a new cycle of questioning eyes gazed at the screen. Marina Abramovic never won her mother’s approval and attention the way she wanted it as a girl, but she had won the world’s.

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Influence

I really enjoyed reading a new book by Gay Hendricks over the winter break. (I got my coaching certification from The Hendricks Institute which he created with his luminous wife Kathlyn Hendricks.) In “The Joy of Genius” Gay talks about the value and importance of recognizing there are many things we don’t have control over and some things we do. Yes, you may also recognize this as the serenity prayer and I wrote about the concept in an earlier blog post as one of the main teachings of the philosopher and once-slave Epictetus. I’ve encountered some people that say we don’t have control and it’s best to let go regarding just about everything. I find that very hard and sometimes a very boring attitude to have about life. I like trying to go for things, even if they seem unlikely. Where does that leave me?
What’s left is influence. Once we let go of the things we can’t control (our thoughts, the past, the future, controlling other people, worrying about what people think of us) we can appreciate and better see what we want to create now. I like to envision that power to influence a situation as if I were engaging an Alexander Calder mobile. It’s huge, like the world. I may not transform it or radically dismantle it, but my influence can utterly shift its orientation. Although it’s mammoth, I can influence it. The winds can change how they go around it. I also may enjoy the process of moving it’s awesomeness. My perception of myself changes too.
I also find that from that spirit of influence some things come to me easier. I am not attached. I stop trying to get things right and make offers, sometimes even grand visions. Just today I was writing to the head of a college department about all the benefits of what I bring as a performer and speaker and how someone I apprenticed from my college 7 years ago, has gone on to become a screenwriter in LA, living their dream. I can’t take full credit for this achievement but I know I influenced her to go for her dream. Influence is a delicious and inviting way to engage people to play and dream big. The professor actually wrote me back with enthusiasm. Will I get to perform for and mentor her students? I don’t know, but I am playing with the mobile and dancing in the prospect of making it happen.
Are there ways you want to play with moving out of trying to control and into influence? Let me know how it feels for you to tap the mobile.

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The Stacks, A Remembrance

My father was married to his job. We would see him, but not that much. He left the house at 6:15 am or thereabouts and returned home about 5:45 most nights. He didn’t have a lot of energy for anyone at that point. I know we had dinner together, but I don’t recall him bringing a whole lot of enthusiasm to that. He was married to my mother, and they were almost like one organism in activities, but I suspected much of his best energy went into his job. Well I more than suspected. I had evidence.

Every once in awhile I got to go to school with my Dad. He was always a teacher, but towards the end of his 32 year stint in teaching he was also the head of the English Department as well as the Vice Principal of Martin Luther King Jr. High School. We’d walk into the school and he would be baraged with students and staff, “Mr. Blaine!” People had questions for him, smiles, complaints. He wore a suit and was buttoned in and down. He could field it all. He’d turn to me and deliver me upstairs.I was there less to spend time with him, and more so he could put me to work in the stacks.

There were these industrial shelves filled with multiple copies of books: To Kill A Mockingbird, Of Mice and Men, Go Tell It On The Mountain, all the classics and mandatory reading for high school English. They stretched to fill the 20×30 windowless room. I’d flip open the book and scan the tenant’s names. Often the names would slip outside the designated lines, the last name teetering on the book log precipice. I couldn’t tell whether my father had taught that particular child, but I imagined if they had been in his class and written so disrespectfully it wouldn’t have gone particularly well.

I loved gathering the books, putting them in order, taking the neglected books and reinforcing a cover, weighing whether the book could take another season of battering. My father was there to teach the kids. He was there to oversee the other teachers. My father. My father loved these books, so I loved these books. I couldn’t help it. And I loved fantasizing about how each of these books traveled with its temporary owner for months. Making a path to their home and back. Touching the tar on the basketball court, withstanding the subway floor, swallowed in an asphyxiating book bag, barely seeing the light of day. And then every summer, these books were officially on vacation, enjoying the view from the one side exposed townhouse apartment of this industrial shelving in the English department book storage. Except for the one or three books still playing hooky somewhere — under a bed – forgotten – unwanted – or stealing away time at the side of a public pool.

I loved it in the stacks. The smell of paper was flavorless but sturdy. The smell of long lasting curriculum. The smell of what my Dad believed was worth children’s time.

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Authentic Emotional Response

I was standing in the kitchen this morning reflecting on the somewhat predictable weekend routine: get my kid to do her homework, do the dishes, get the food shopping done. I noticed this did not inspire me. I also noticed that I was already seeing this as a stale day. With this awareness I grabbed a hold of myself and said, “today could be really awesome.” I interrupted the predictable pattern that was stifling me and I planted this sparkling intention. A half hour later I got a text from Jess Noel asking if Lily was available to do some choreography she had just made. “I want to see it on two bodies,” she said. “We can be there in 42 minutes!” I said. I just had to find my car… another story for another day. 

Reunited from their project this summer, Paprika Plains, in which they danced and were body painted by Jess’ sister Natalie Fletcher, Lily and Jess pledged to find a way to collaborate again on a project in 2019. For today they just warmed up and worked through some steps for an upcoming audition Jess would be holding this week. Although it had been 4 months since Lily and Jess danced, they moved to the latest LSD song “Mountains” and marked through their motions and dance vocabulary, picking up the dance dialogue they last had in September. 

Afterward we chatted about our creative hopes and dreams for the new year. For this year Jess shared she wants to make art and connect deeply and in meaningful ways. Lily wants to do some professional theatre work. And I want to create a new show to explore anti-semitism which will somehow not be depressing, and possibly funny. We talked about the magic of the Paprika Plains project, how so many in the audience shared with us that they were moved. I recounted how each and every audience member I spoke with shared about their own lives, and felt that the piece spoke directly to them. “That’s what I am looking for,” Jess said. I want an “Authentic Emotional Reaction” from the audience. I want to make art that does that.” “You should write about that,” I told her. “No,” she said, “but feel free to write about it if you want to,” she told me. 

So here I am, embracing the start of another magical year of creating work. And I’m now embodying the purpose to evoke an authentic emotional reaction, a connecting thread that envelops more and more people into a community for dialogue, trust and change. I asked for an awesome day, and I got it. I am asking for an authentic emotional reaction with my creations, and am curious what will happen. By the way, I still haven’t done the food shopping and I am just fine about that. Making the art and writing about making the art is a bigger priority. The joy that results from that is now fueling my day.

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RIDICULOUS – A Brand New Show for FringeArts 2018 – here’s the press release.

RidiculousLOREZJennifer Blaine, Philadelphia’s acclaimed solo performer, comedienne, and playwright “whose comic genius is like Lily Tomlin and Tracey Ullman” (Philadelphia Daily News) will perform her new one-woman show Ridiculous as part of the 2018 FringeArts at L’Etage (Friday September 14 at 7:30pm, Saturday September 22 at 7:30pm and Sunday September 23 at 4pm.)  Jennifer Blaine has performed with the likes of Chris Rock, George Carlin, and Glenda Jackson (Best Actress Tony Award 2018 for Three Tall Women), and has brought her smart, irreverent humor to premier venues and festivals nationwide. Jennifer’s shows are a balm for those craving some comedy, candor, and inspiration.  

Jennifer is a Philadelphia FringeArts Festival favorite, creating original solo works for 15 previous festivals—including a sold-out run of both Dirty Joke (“comedy with a conscience”) in 2013, and Vicissitudes of Travel (2017), a collaboration with Barrymore award winning Philadelphia theater artist Karen Getz.  Acknowledged as “brilliant,” (Chestnut Hill Local) Vicissitudes tracks a family’s journey through the brain surgery of their loved one and is currently on tour at medical facilities and universities. ”The playful magic in THE VICISSITUDES OF TRAVEL has the visceral drive of a fever dream—its final destination at once unforgivingly foreign, yet strikingly similar to the place you call home.” (Ken Youmans)

With her FringeArts premiere of “Ridiculous,” Blaine returns to her comedy roots to provide commentary about the current absurd state of the world as well as stories from her personal life. The show intends to be interactive, even taking off from subject matter voted on by the audience. “I’ll explore the intimate space of creativity with the audience in real time and let them impact the performance,” Blaine says. That’s part of the reason the show will be in L’Etage, a glorious gem of a performance space that veritably hugs the audience. There will be improv, audience participation and confessional (possibly embarrassing) stories about motherhood, the patriarchy, and even bestiality. “We’re at a moment where it’s not necessarily safe to be real and honest with one another. I am taking a risk with this piece to do just that. I won’t be appearing as multiple characters, but rather as just a version of myself.” The meta message is that it’s okay — even critical — for us to be ourselves at this moment in time. “I also am letting this show be a bit messy too. I want to tell these stories, but I don’t have an agenda for the audience to have a certain reaction.  I just want them to feel free, be themselves, and have hope so we can move forward out of this ridiculous time. Oh, and laugh.”

One audience member said of Blaine’s work, “she takes her audience on a journey that includes us in happenings relevant to our own lives as well as hers. She makes us laugh and cry and think about what’s important and how we can make a difference.” Come out and experience Ridiculous and see for yourself.

WHEN: September 14 at 7:30pm, September 22 at 7:30pm, September 23 at 4pm

WHERE: L’Etage, 624 S. 6th Street, Philadelphia, PA 19147

TICKETS: $20. For info and tickets, please visit https://www.brownpapertickets.com/event/3556923

SHOW DESCRIPTION:

Escape into the absurd humor of Jennifer Blaine as she wrestles the ridiculous – from motherhood to the patriarchy to bestiality. Blaine (“comic genius like Lily Tomlin”, PDN) invites us to honor ourselves despite a world of interruption & disruption. We can start somewhere, begin to protest, but remember to celebrate.

 

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Here’s the press release for the new show I will be performing at FRINGEARTS: “THE VICISSITUDES OF TRAVEL”

VicissitudesJ&Kcredit

Jennifer Blaine, Philadelphia’s acclaimed solo performer, “whose comic genius is like Lily Tomlin and Tracey Ullman,” (Philadelphia Daily News) and Karen Getz whose direction has been called “truly a transcendent experience” (City Paper) will present the world premiere of the one-woman work, The Vicissitudes of Travel, as part of the 2017 Fringe Festival presented by FringeArts.

Jennifer is a Philadelphia Fringe Festival favorite, creating original works for 14 previous festivals—including, most recently, a sold-out run of her show Dirty Joke in 2013. Jennifer collaborated on her new show The Vicissitudes of Travel with Barrymore award winning Philadelphia theater artist Karen Getz, who served as director and co-writer. Getz is known to Live Arts and Fringe audiences for her comic-actor’s ballets: Suburban Love Songs (2006) and Disco Descending (2008) and as an improvisor with Cecily and Gwendolyn’s Fantastical… and Lunch Lady Doris.  Jennifer and Karen have been working on The Vicissitudes of Travel over the past two years and have been awarded a Jilline Ringle Solo Residency @ 1812 Productions, to further develop the piece, this July.

WHEN: September 10 at 3 p.m.; Sept. 16 at 7:30 p.m.; Sept. 22 at 7:30 p.m. & at 10 p.m.

WHERE: Philadelphia Ethical Society, 1906 Rittenhouse Square, Philadelphia, PA

TICKETS: $20. For info and tickets, please visit www.jenniferblaine.com

SHOW DESCRIPTION: The Vicissitudes of Travel is a multi-character solo performance and gently interactive adventure through memory, time, art, and the bonds of family. Desperate to hold onto the brother she loves, “Sister” charters a guided tour bus through his brain surgery to ‘capture” him before it’s too late. The audience is invited to join in on an evocative journey through tangled neurons, misplaced memories and imagined artistic masterpieces as “Sister” tries to find and hold on to the ephemeral ties of love that bind us all.

Jennifer Blaine plays multiple characters to bring the journey to life, including Sister, Mother, Father, Child, Uncle, Guide, Brain Tumor, and Brother, himself. Getz marvels “I think Jennifer might be some sort of hysterically funny, benevolent alien. That’s just my deeply scientific theory- but it is astonishing to watch her seamlessly morph from one, disparate character to the next.”

According to Jennifer, “This new show is about traveling through memories, personalities, and perceptions, and exploring how we define ourselves based on our relationships with whomever we love. When someone close to us has a compromised brain or any issue where their personality changes, our universe shifts- so much can feel tenuous. This show explores what it’s like to go beyond personalities to reach the person. It is emotionally the most intimate work I have ever created, and probably my most dramatic solo show to date.”

After the performance, attendees are invited to hang out and “gently decompress” and connect,   exploring their own journeys through unpressured art making and informal conversation. Getz underscores the critical value of this post-performance period; “I am continually, happily surprised by how the piece acts as an individualized catalyst- allowing audiences to see their own journeys with loved ones who have moved beyond or away from their original selves.” The Vicissitudes of Travel is an instant-community event, intended to nurture our ability to

communicate, connect, and share experiences related to illness, mortality, family, memory and loss. It does NOT aim to be heavy. Just human.

ABOUT JENNIFER BLAINE

Jennifer Blaine has been performing one-woman multi-character shows for 22 years. Her original writing, performing, and comedy connect audiences through humor, socially relevant issues, and dialogue. She has performed with the likes of Chris Rock, George Carlin, and Joe Piscopo, and been featured at premier venues and festivals nationwide. Highlights include: Broadway, The Kimmel Center, The Annenberg Center for the Arts, The Open Stage of Harrisburg, Wesleyan University, and The Samuel Beckett Theatre on Theatre Row. She is the resident theater artist and playwright of the Showstoppers program at the Kimmel Center, which provides free musical theatre classes and mentorship for  Philadelphia high school students. She is the founder and producer for 5,000 Women which supports and launches original work of women performance artists. For more information, visit www.jenniferblaine.com.

ABOUT KAREN GETZ

Karen Getz is a Philadelphia-based theater maker: a writer, choreographer, director, actor, dancer, and creative collaborator. She is the recipient of two Philadelphia Theatre Initiative Grants and an Independence Foundation Fellowship in support of her original, comic-actor’s ballets. She has received three Barrymore Awards for Excellence in Theater. Karen is the co-guide and co-creator of The Gorgeousity, an ongoing mission to bring playfully immersive, original works of theater to gathered strangers in casual environments, to create instant communities and remind adults of the joy, power, and spiritual necessity of imagination and play. Based in Philadelphia, she’s worked with Azuka Theatre, Virginia Rep, University of the Arts, Bristol Riverside Theatre, Pig Iron, The Lantern Theater, The Philadelphia Shakespeare Festival, Act II Playhouse, Flashpoint Theater, Theater Ariel, 1812 Productions, SwimPony and Tapestry Theater. She previously worked in Los Angeles for almost a decade, appearing in over 20 major films and television shows. You can watch her dance and chew a lot of gum in the film Dirty Dancing.

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