deathwork, Theater-Related, Witchy

Finding My Path(s), Again and Again

Just over a year ago, I was in Olathe, Kansas, for the Midwest Dramatists’ Center fall conference. It was a terrific weekend full of cool people, useful learning, and a lot of great theater. I came home fired up about kicking my theater career in the butt. This website exists in large part because of that conference, and my reflections on it formed my first blog post here. I am ever grateful for the experience.

Then, something incredible happened: my smart, talented, dedicated spouse was accepted into grad school. Suddenly, something we’d discussed for years as a hypothetical became imminent.

After a great deal of discussion, I committed to being the anchor for our household while Leora completes their MSW. The “stable one.” But I was equally determined that “stable” would not equal “stagnant.” So, as is my witchy way, I went on a lot of trance journeys, read a lot of tarot spreads, and made a lot of lists in sacred space to determine what I wanted to be doing with myself for the next two years.

I was quite startled when the answer that came back, time after time after time, was deathwork, not theater.

And so was born the deathication, a twoish-year-long exploration of my desires and options around “how to make a living at dying without killing what I live for.” It will involve everything from industry research and interviews with professionals to meditation, tarot spreads, and liturgical development. If everything goes according to plan, or at least doesn’t blow up too spectacularly, I’ll come through it with a solid understanding of where I fit in the alternative deathcare world.

I’m not turning my back on playwriting forever. If nothing else, I have six more plays to write in the Wheel of the Year cycle, because I want to know what else happens to these chuckleheads. I’ll probably never stop writing plays and attempting, at least desultorily, to get them onto stages. But when I think about the amount of time, energy, and perseverance required to really make it in either of these fields, deathwork is the one where I most feel willing—nay, eager to make that commitment.

So last weekend, I was in Chaska, Minnesota, for the National Home Funeral Alliance biennial national conference. It wasn’t perfect: the alternative deathcare movement as a whole struggles around issues of accessibility and diversity, and this conference was definitely a microcosm of those struggles. I loved every wonderful, challenging, frustrating, enriching minute of it. Even when I was pissed off, I was so engaged. I’m so fired up to keep having the vital, difficult conversations and do the vital, difficult work of making it better. That’s how I know my love is real.

Several Minnesota Threshold Network members attended the National Home Funeral Alliance biennial national conference in Chaska, MN, where we hosted a mock vigil, complete with cardboard coffin for attendees to decorate

Atheist Pagan Panel redux

At Paganicon 2019, I had the honor of sitting on a panel on Atheist Paganism, alongside organizer/moderator Kay Lara Schoenwetter, Godless Paganism editor John Halstead, and local Pagan luminary, thinker, writer, and raconteur Steven Posch. Kay sent us questions beforehand, and like any good public speaker with anxiety, I wrote out and relentlessly practiced my answers beforehand. Then the panel actually happened. The conversation went in different directions; I forgot to say things I wanted and said things I hadn’t planned to; we skipped questions and added others as the discussion led us.

But by gum, I answered these questions, and it seems a shame to let that go to waste. So here they are, the answers I would have given to the questions we were sent, if the outer world ran as smoothly as the one in my head.

Continue reading “Atheist Pagan Panel redux”


Midwest Dramatists’ Center Conference 2018

I’m too old for a sexual identity crisis, right?
“Never Too Old”

When playwright Michelle Tyrene Johnson posted a call for ten-minute play submissions for the Midwest Dramatists Center‘s 2018 conference, the first thing I did was ask my dear friend Kate, “Is Olathe [the conference location] close enough to Topeka [where Kate lives] that we could see each other if I came to this thing?” Kate replied that approximately an hour and a half between Topeka and Olathe is a heck of a lot closer than eight and a half hours between Topeka and Minneapolis (where I live), and I was sold.

So… I kind of submitted “Never Too Old” on a whim that didn’t have a ton to do with the conference itself. Turns out to have been one of the best spontaneous decisions I’ve ever made.

The MDC conference is two days of intense theater immersion. The day goes like this: actors – no, make that incredible actors with the endurance of ultramarathoners – read a participant’s ten-minute play. The playwright then comes to sit in a chair in the front of the room for fifteen minutes of feedback, first from the room’s designated adjudicators and then from the room at large. Five minute break. Wash, rinse, repeat pretty much all day. Before, after, and in between, have insightful and inspiring conversations about everything from the beating heart of American theater to the daily frustrations of playwriting to weird things our cats do with fifty-plus playwrights or any actor or director unwise enough to sit still long enough for us to buttonhole them.

At the closing night gala. Back row, L-R: Hannah Vaughn, Your Humble Author, Amanda Andrei, Anna Fox, Elizabeth Kerlin, Lavinia Roberts. Front row: Allan Maule

I appreciate every class and workshop on playwriting I’ve ever taken, but nothing teaches me more about plays and the writing thereof than watching theater and then taking it apart to see how it works. And hearing how other people critique theater? That’s an all-access pass to someone else’s brain. I’ve been home for about eighteen hours, and my mind is still buzzing from all the thoughts that this experience generated. I have new friends. I have new “ones to watch.” I have a page of notes that I’ve already implemented into “Never Too Old.”

To everyone who made this conference a reality: the MDC crew, the incredible actors and directors (especially the “Never Too Old” team: performers Curtis Smith, Peter Leondedis, Nicole Hall, Franci Talamentez-Witte, and Bob Allen and director Warren Deckert), the long-suffering hotel staff, the adjudicators, and every damned playwright in those rooms: thank you. My whim to apply to a conference that happened to bring me close to a friend may well have permanently altered for the better my trajectory as a playwright. I am forever grateful.

(PS: Yes, I did get to see Kate.)