17 March 2011

Make It Happen


I've been on the road a bit for a few weeks and, outside of playing around with a couple of song lyric ideas, I haven't been writing.

Until today. What I worked on today appears below. When I finished it, I realized there's actually some stuff up with me worth blogging....so here's this for now and I'll share the rest tonight or tomorrow.

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Dear Friends

In two weeks, I will have been away from New Orleans for one year. It has been an amazing year. I left New Orleans with tears in my eyes; I hated leaving but had reached the end of the line after struggling mightily for almost a year to support myself. My plan was to live rent-free in CA, take any job I could find, save up my money and return to New Orleans to give it another try.

The Big Hand had a different itinerary in mind. The unexpected theme this year became Artistic Growth. In the last 12 months I have received introductory training in Non-Violent Communication, completed three Landmark Education courses, written and performed a debut draft of a one-woman show, composed six new songs, studied Interplay techniques, and designed and directed a Theater-of-the-Oppressed experience,

As for finding work: I facilitated five improv/body-based workshops and presented as "artist in the pulpit" at three Unitarian Universalist churches. Besides those one-shot gigs, I play piano two mornings a week for ballet classes at Cabrillo College. If not for food stamps, occasional monetary donations from dear friends, the use of my host's beater car and a rent-free living space, I might have gone under this year.

I'm writing now because I am raising funds to attend this year's Theater of the Oppressed/Playback Theater training in Port Townsend, WA. From the moment I learned of this training, I knew I had to attend. I just got off the phone with Marc Weinblatt, the Director of the Mandala Center for Change. Our conversation -- about the trainers and participants from all over the world who will be there, the Center's philosophy as re Theater of the Oppressed, as well his affirmations of my conviction that art, performance, Theater of the Oppressed and Non-Violent Communication are strong, essential tools for all social activism -- have strengthened my resolve to do whatever it takes to be there.

Some of you may know that I am dreaming and scheming to bring Non Violent Communication to New Orleans when I return. The training in Port Townsend feels to me like the perfect kick-start for making this dream real.

If you followed the link above, you know that the fee for this training is $475 ($425 if paid by 30 April). The Center handles registration on an honor system: pay what you can. It's operated under this policy for 20 years.

On my current $200/month salary, I cannot easily pay anything at all toward this fee. In addition, there are transportation costs associated. Airfare (based on a search one hour ago) is about $250+ taxes. I have no idea whether it's less expensive to drive (890 miles) but I am willing to drive if it is. My estimate of how much I need is $700 -- $300 for transportation and $400 for the Mandala Center for Change.

You can help in one of two ways:
  1. Host/produce a performance opportunity for me, i.e., a living-room concert, a special event at your church or club, a "special guest" for something already scheduled. My preference would be that you do not charge admission but let people know we will pass the hat at the end of the show. If you're interested in this option, we can talk about what kind of show would work best. Total proceeds will be reported to all the other recipients of this message. In this way, we'll all know when the goal is met.
  2. Make a donation of any amount. If you choose this option, please know that the amount of your contribution (but not your name) will be reported to all the other recipients of this message (if you have another idea on how to make this process as transparent and honorable as possible, I'm open to suggestions). In this way, we'll all know when the goal is met.
Thank you very much for reading this long-ish letter. Thank you for making a donation, hosting an event or holding me in light in your heart.

Sincerely







I also wrote to the Director:

Marc

Thank you for calling today. Since first reading the announcement about the upcoming training, I've felt it was important to my growth as an artist that I attend. Now I know what I need to do to make that happen.

My fundraising efforts started five minutes after our conversation ended. I've raised $100 so far. My goal is to raise the full registration fee plus travel expense. As a proud member of the CouchSurfing.org community I will try to arrange housing through that resource.

If I raise less than $475 for registration, I can either a) do work exchange (see skill set below) for the balance, and/or b) pay off the balance by Thanksgiving in monthly installments. If I'm unable to find a CS member in the area with an opening, I will request homestay through Mandala Center.

My skills include:
  • musician: singer, songwriter, pianist, guitarist
  • administrative/clerical: type 90 wpm, high computer literacy (spreadsheets, presentations, Internet, sound recording, database, etc) and math skills (QuickBooks, basic accounting)
  • Good people skills: workshop facilitator, greeter, information desk, tour guide, "sounding board," mediation
  • highly organized, mature, imaginative
I am also happy to walk dogs, wash dishes, set up chairs, etc.

Please let me know if I left anything out.

Alex

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