Category Archives: Uncategorized

My trip to Disney World

We asked you to share with us photos from your trips to Disney World and here are some of the awesome snapshots we got. Thanks everyone!

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Ariel and Me

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Lockwood. Character Brkfast.1992.2

Lockwood.Magic Kingdom. 1994

How about you? What was your trip to Disney World like?

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My Experience at Burning Man

It can be difficult to explain what Burning Man is like without sounding like a cult, or worse, a cliche. But what I love about Burning Man is the impossibility of it all.

Sure, we build an impossible, temporary city in a brutal, harsh desert, but, more than that, we create an impossible community. It’s people you might never know in any other city on Earth, but for that week on the playa, they are the family you choose to share with, build with, explore with. And it’s those connections that ground you as you see the most impossible things you’ve ever seen in your life.

And so you stare, eyes wide, at some impossible thing that someone built in an impossible location, while lasers stream overhead. And then your new best friends lead you to the next impossible place and you dance until sunrise.

– Ed Conley

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All Together Now: two hundred years of American public assembly

excerpted from the AMERICAN UTOPIAS playbill

Even before the Declaration of Independence, a public demonstration in Boston Harbor proved the political impact that could be unleashed by Americans taking nonviolent action together. In what became known as the Boston Tea Party of 1773, residents of the Colony of Massachusetts dumped a British shipment of tea into the harbor to protest the British Parliament’s Tea Act, which they believed amounted to taxation without representation. Parliament’s response was to end Massachusetts’ self-government and shut down Boston’s commerce; this helped inspire the First Continental Congress and, as tension between the colonies and the British Empire escalated, the start of the American Revolution in 1775. Since American independence was established, American law has shaped – and been shaped by – the power of public assembly.

Throughout the nineteenth century, the most common public protests in the US were strikes and labor demonstrations. Despite eruptions of violence, the efforts of nineteenth-century labor demonstrations culminated in the establishment of the Department of Labor and Commerce, and a Secretary of Labor in the President’s Cabinet, in 1903.

The beginning of the twentieth century also saw public assembly put to use by the women’s suffrage movement. Several organizations such as the Women’s Political Union imported the tactics of parades, street speakers, and pickets from the English women’s suffrage movement. It was not until after several large, some violent, protests did President Wilson declare his support for women’s suffrage, and the Nineteenth Amendment was finally ratified in 1920.

The mid-twentieth century ushered in the Civil Rights Movement, which further demonstrated the power of peaceful protest to change American life and law. The efforts of Dr. Martin Luther King, JR. and his colleagues to advocate for integration and racial equality paved the way for so many civil rights advances that his method of nonviolent protest inspired countless other movements around the world.

The power of public assembly and the delicate dance between demonstrators and the laws that regulate demonstrations continues into the twenty-first century. Legal battles recently flared again after the Occupy Wall Street movement began in Manhattan’s Zuccotti Park in 2011, and quickly inspired parallel Occupy movements across the country.

For the full story, read the note in the American Utopias playbill.

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In Search of Cultural Balance

I’ve never been particularly attached to the clothes I wear.  I have always happily worn different outfits to fit the social situation required — unlike others, what I wear does not define me or so I thought…

I wore a hijab for the first time as a Peace Corps volunteer in The Islamic Republic of Mauritania, a country three times the size of New Mexico in western Africa. It’s a sunny, hot, and dusty place that is almost entirely covered in sand.  Almost all of the women in the town where I lived wore clothing that covered their entire body – only exposing their face, feet, and hands.  Wearing a hijab is as much for practical reasons as it is for religious and cultural reasons; it offers protection from the sun and sand.  In order to be respectful and culturally appropriate, I wore an ankle-length skirt, a short-sleeved blouse, and a headscarf, which left only my face exposed – shining white out of the center of a colorful frame. I embraced this outfit, even in the heat, because it was exciting and new and I could feel that I was more accepted in my community as a result of my efforts.

About four months into my two year stint as a volunteer, I realized that I was feeling rather strange and couldn’t pinpoint exactly what was troubling me. I thought about my daily interactions, the very friendly exchanges I had with Mauritanians. Then it hit me—I didn’t have any real friends.  As an extrovert, I had never struggled to make friends. As I thought more about why, I realized that I had lost my sense of self, my past, my individuality.

In my efforts to be culturally appropriate – wearing a hijab and politely interacting with people – I had suppressed my own extroverted, American self. I realized it’s hard, and almost impossible, to make connections with people when you aren’t revealing your true personality, expressing your opinions and being you. It was in that moment, that I rediscovered Alison within Mauritania. I opened myself up to women in the community, communicating my opinions, interacting with them from this new perspective, all the while still wearing a hijab and my conservative clothing, and almost immediately, I had friends.  Not surface friendships, but real friends.

In The Convert, we watch as two cultures, two religious perspectives compete for the souls of the characters.  To me, Jekesai’s struggle is very real — even though my own personal struggle had much less at stake. Discovering who you are within a different cultural framework and trying to reconcile your own culture and the new culture is a challenge faced by all Peace Corps volunteers.

As a recruiter for Peace Corps, I try to set realistic expectations for potential volunteers, telling my personal story, and encouraging them to watch movies and plays that depict what it takes to live in a culture that is not your own. The Convert gives Americans a glimpse of what it might be like to find cultural balance while they are serving as Peace Corps volunteers.

If you would like more information about how you can serve as a Peace Corps Volunteer, please visit the Peace Corps website at www.peacecorps.gov and contact Alison McReynolds at amcreynolds@peacecorps.gov.

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Do We Need Something to Hate to Discover What We Love?

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‘Old Glory’ and a portion of his patriotic elaborate entrance.

When I first read THE ELABORATE ENTRANCE OF CHAD DEITY, it worked for me on a number of levels. I loved that the content was pro-wrestling, something we rarely see on American theatre stages. I also loved that pro-wrestling was a lens through which to view the idiosyncracies of our country: the problems inherent in the notion of the ‘American dream,’ as well as the complexities of building an American identity. The pro-wrestling world dictates that in order for Chad Deity to be our American hero, he needs an enemy. But as a country and as individuals, do we need something to hate in order to discover what it is we love – or who we are?

It’s my view that we Americans have increasingly started defining ourselves by pointing to what we’re against.  In some instances, that has worked well for us. We’re a country built on a commitment to religious freedom, because our Puritan pilgrims established themselves as ‘not’ like the intolerant communities they emerged from. However, in the modern world, the identification of an ‘other’ has its risks. When we label the terrorist-who-happens-to-be-Muslim an enemy of America, some Americans will see all Muslims as enemies. That doesn’t mean that there aren’t terrorists we need to condemn. It just means that constantly talking about the ‘other’ draws attention to what we’re ‘not’ like, rather than what we are like. It’s a more exclusive, rather than inclusive, act. Even within our current presidential race, each side is defining themselves as the ‘opposite’ of the other. This is not a very rigorous intellectual exercise, and does not provide a lot of clarity in terms of  what each candidate really stands for.

From an early age, we read stories and watch movies that articulate a clear other to a main hero – when we think of Harry Potter, Peter Pan, or even Cinderella, there’s a clear enemy. The real world is much more complex. While Mace emerges at the end of the play as a hero to his community–someone who attained his American Dream–he will forever be cast as the ‘villain’ in the larger narrative, because of his appearance. While our country’s ‘enemies’ are linked with ideas of ‘otherness,’ it will continue to be difficult for real diversity in our country to flourish, and for people of all races, cultural backgrounds, and religions to have an equal shot at success. But, if America would make more ‘we are this’ statements rather than ‘we are not this’ statements, there would be more of a chance for the Maces of this world to take the lead as our heroes. Narratives are powerful, and for now, in our world of us and them, Chad Deity needs someone else to fail for him to win – and for us to love him.

-Ronee Penoi, Producer-in-Residence

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Your Dream Career

The Elaborate Entrance of Chad Deity is not just for wrestling fans. The story is told through the lens of wrestling, but the lessons can apply to anyone in search of a dream career.

The play opens with Macedonio Guerra (aka Mace) recounting his childhood in the Bronx. He is a six-year-old boy playing with his brothers on Saturday morning, moments before professional wrestling airs on television. The boys play with plastic “wrestling guys” and test out wrestling moves on each other.

Mace’s grandfather walks in on the wrestling chaos in the living room and says, “It takes most people a long time to know what they love in life, Grandson.  But I think you already know.”  As a professional wrestler later in life, Mace reflects, “And he was right… I got a job doing exactly what I love.”

How amazing is that?  Don’t you wish you had a job doing exactly what you love?

A couple of years ago, blogger and author, Aidan Donnelly Rowley hosted a series of Happier Hours.  At the first one, she invited Gretchen Rubin to speak about happiness.

“She said that the people she knows who are happiest in their adult lives are pretty much doing what they were doing when they were ten. One friend used to watch endless television as a child and now he is a television writer. Another friend played with dollhouses much past the point of ‘social appropriateness’ and is now an interior decorator.

Mace watched professional wrestling on television and became one of THE Wrestlers.

Can you think back to what you loved to do as a child?  Is it incorporated in your current career?

Younger generations have tried to link passions and careers.  We no longer believe that work has to be miserable.  The old adage that they wouldn’t call it work if it was fun is not the prevailing wisdom anymore.  Young people want to find fulfillment in careers.

Mace has fulfilled his dream, but he doesn’t feel fulfilled.

Mace: …unlike other jobs where when you get really good, you become a boss or a star or you get paid more… When you get really good at the wrestling part of the wrestling business, you’re not rewarded. You’re unrewarded. …I go to the bottom in the minds of the boss because I’m losing so much, and as bad as I want to walk in to his corporate nightmare office and remind him that wrestling is not a legitimate sporting event and I am losing because he is writing scripts that tell me to lose, as bad as I want to tell my boss that, I don’t tell him nothing. Because it’s actually a good job.  A dream job.

Is it really a dream job if you are not rewarded and you are forced to hold your tongue?  Mace seems to think so, but he’s also conflicted. He wants to be appreciated for his skills and ideas. He’s living out his childhood dream, but as a kid he never knew about the behind-the-scenes politics and conflicts.

The same is true for many non-wrestlers who think they are following their passion:

“I live in the Washington, DC area, where it’s common for people to choose their profession based on their passion for an issue or ideology. Constantly refreshed with young master’s-in-policy graduates, the city easily sustains its idealistic zeal. Still, I often see those fresh with passion wilt after the day-to-day reality of ‘changing the world’ sets in. As federal employees, they’re quickly disenchanted with the bureaucratic culture of CYA that slows forward motion to a near standstill and the Kool-Aid that suffocates innovation. As consultants to the federal government, they quickly realize it’s more about keeping federal clients happy than delivering effective solutions. I once heard a consultant say, ‘I got into this because I wanted to change the world and look at me now.’ As non-profit executives, they are faced with the necessity of fundraising and the realization that even in organizations focused on a common cause, egos encumber advancement.” Figuring Out Fulfillment

I guess we have to concede that no job is perfect and even a dream career has its daily challenges.  Egos get in the way in professional wrestling and in other professions.  There are plenty of larger-than-life egos to enjoy as you watch The Elaborate Entrance of Chad Diety and see Mace struggle with the reality of working for THE Wrestling.

Have you found your dream career?  Does it align with your childhood passions?  Do you feel fulfilled?

-Teresa Philipp, Claque & Working Group Member

halfempty4now.com

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Is Wrestling Real?

In The Elaborate Entrance of Chad Deity, larger-than-life figures emerge from darkness into the theater.  The music booms, the costumes are flamboyant, and the entertainers gyrate their way to the stage.  This is the start to a…wrestling match?

Playwright Kristoffer Diaz brings Woolly audiences into this fantastical world.  Diaz creates superstars like Chad Deity and The Fundamentalist and Old Glory; outside the theater, it is a world inhabited by professional wrestling icons like John Cena and The Great Khali and Vince McMahon.

Professional wrestling has a long and storied history.  It originated in the early 19th century, as a sideshow in vaudeville halls and travelling circuses.  Wikipedia defines it as a “spectacle combining athletics and theatrical performance.”  In 1989, McMahon admitted that the World Wrestling Federation, which he owns (now known as World Wrestling Entertainment or WWE), scripted its matches and had predetermined outcomes to its bouts.

So is wrestling real?

It is clear, to even the most casual observers, that an evening watching professional wrestling will bear little resemblance to an Olympic Greco-Roman wrestling competition. However, as an industry, professional wrestling extends far beyond the United States.  It is big business in Mexico, where masked fighters compete in the Lucha Libre style of wrestling.  It is also popular in Japan and in many smaller organizations stateside.

WWE is the unquestioned industry leader; it is the head of a billion dollar industry, and a publicly traded organization.  Its top stars are paid millions annually, and WWE performers are in the ring for hundreds of shows each year.

Professional wrestling is also an industry where the audience expects to experience a level of brutality.  In the clip below, a “hardcore” match between two WWE stars, wrestler Ric Flair is slammed repeatedly with a bed full of barbed wire.  Internationally, Japanese promotions are known for staging particularly vicious fights; this includes the “Piranha Deathmatch”, where barbed wire boards are placed in the corners, and to win, you must hold your opponent in a tank full of piranhas for ten seconds.  The fish in these matches are not toys, and Ric Flair is actually getting slammed into real metal spikes.  Does that count as real?

This fierce reality certainly has an impact on its participants.  Adam Copeland, known in wrestling circles as Edge, was forced to retire in 2011 as a result of a spinal injury sustained while wrestling.  Owen Hart, a Canadian professional wrestler, fell to his death in 1999 as he was being lowered, via harness, into a wrestling ring.  And in 2007, wrestler Chris Benoit was found dead, after having committed a double murder and suicide.  Widespread reports later indicated that Benoit, who often ended matches by jumping off the 10-foot wrestling ring rope and ramming his head into opponents’ chests, was suffering from a severe case of brain damage.

One of the most telling moments in Chad Deity comes at the close of the show. Our narrator, Macedonio “Mace” Guerra, is no longer talking. We have been told that he can be a great wrestler, and he just wants to win one bout.  And now, in his role as super-villain Che Chavez Castro, he finally has a shot to succeed.

In the closing moments, Mace has a moment of realization. He rips off his costume and speaks passionately as himself, and not as an amalgamation of three radically different Latino historical figures.  We, the audience, believe in Mace—as he is, not as the villainous caricature.  Yet moments later, Macedonio Guerra loses to Chad Deity in “record time.”

This conclusion is a reminder that Chad Deity is a play about wrestling. It’s a play that (like a WWE match) features athleticism, sportsmanship, and a scripted ending. And as the story ends, with an inspired Mace losing in historic fashion, the crowd is left to wonder; is Mace’s passion for wrestling real?  Or is his passion just another piece of spectacle for all of us?  Mace undoubtedly feels real and honest; and the more real that his actions appear to the crowd, the more we want it to be real.

 

— Eric Colchamiro, Woolly Claque member

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