Tuesday, July 26, 2011


Binging can be sexy, can't it?
"Life itself is a binge." - Julia Childs

Last night we celebrated life with what can only be called a binge.  After a leisurely unplanned outing to Gardiner, Maine (complete with a trip to the A1 Diner, a bout of library hugging and a rural motorcycle ride in the mist), a cluster of TAM company members feasted at a farmhouse with steaks, seafood, fruits and vegetables on the grill.  We drank several bottles of wine and over the course of 4 or 5 hours never once stopped eating, strumming guitars and singing.  It was a glorious night for me for many reasons, but especially because it was the very first time any of my lyrics have been put to music and performed.  Thanks to Ambien Mitchell for her collaboration, organization, patience and genius!  We binged on food.  We binged on good company.  We binged on creative synergy.  We decided that my song and a song of hers should be spliced together in a medley of gloriousness, and that is how "About Your Shirt: The Laundry Song" was born.  Creating and sharing are perhaps the two most important things you can do in life - but also, sometimes, the most costly and scary.  My Dad (who you may notice I quote incessantly) always says, "Generosity is very expensive."

Don't burn out!
Art takes energy.  Perhaps that is why so many artists burn out or try to rev themselves up with various addictions and self destructive behaviors.  My mind keeps fixating on Amy Winehouse today, with a mix of sadness that her life was cut so short and a deep admiration for the music she was able to create in her brief stint on this planet.  I often wonder if it's inevitable for great artists to suffer and/or crash and burn.  Surely not, as there are plenty of examples of great artists that live happy, moderate, long lives - right?  How about Paul Newman, or Betty White? 

Yet, there is a definite majority that do not live long and prosper.  Hence the existence of the Forever 27s - that uncanny, ever-growing group of brilliant musicians that have died tragically and unexpectedly at the too young age of 27 years old.  To my thinking at least, Winehouse is now a member of that group.  I love her music.  I admire her artistry.  She was a one of a kind original.  I worry about a world in which souls that are so eager to share themselves wind up crushed and extinguished. 

In all the myths of the creation of the world, one of my favorites is the story that my step-father has sort of invented for himself; God, in the act of making life, matter, space, time, and creatures, poured himself out and in to everything he made until there was no more God separate from his creation, because God WAS literally in his creation: he used himself as the prime ingredient and spent himself entirely to create something new.  As if God was the seed, and creation was the sprouting plant.  Once there's a thriving plant, there is no more seed.

I don't actually buy this origins story, as I am firm in my conviction that the act of creation needn't destroy its source.  But there is something beautiful about looking at creation as an act of sacrifice.  The creative mind is constantly pouring itself into what it makes and living fully only in what it makes, sometimes to the point of ceasing to live outside of its own art.  This may be an unhealthy extreme for a human being, but I can't help but be drawn to such wacky passion.  "Damn the torpedoes!  Give it your all.  Reckless abandon," and all that jazz.  Like Billy Joel would say, "Only the good die young."  I always had a somewhat twisted fantasy of dying at 24.  I figured by then I'd have created brilliant art, lived fast and furious, and duck out leaving everyone wanting more.  Genius, I reasoned, burns at both ends.  Wouldn't it be more awesome to go down in flames than to sputter out for lack of spark?  That's how I used to think, caught up in the glamor of the creative binge.  It's true that the wild binge of life sometimes creates more life, but there is a line where it turns destructive.

One of my favorite artists on the outer fringe: Dali
In our intense 3-hour acting classes the first year of grad school, we'd all end up weeping on the floor in a puddle of our own tears and undone psyches every day.  Our teacher would proudly survey us, commending our artistic bravery, and say, "Make sure you take care of yourselves today."  We'd look at each other dully, not really knowing what that meant or whether this was art or just plain crazy.  My friend Evin and I chose to deal by ritualistically wolfing down Chipotle tacos and a pint of ice cream (each) - an addiction only marginally healthier than drugs, alcohol, or hookups.  But I get it.  I get the need to self medicate.  I get the itch that can't be scratched, the thirst that can't be quenched. 

We humans definitely do need to take care of ourselves, especially if we're spending ourselves.  Those of us who use our selves as the materials to create, who blur the lines between their art/work and their lives, may suffer needlessly and perish unnecessarily if we loose our equilibrium...but gosh darn it, those chaotic, feverish artists living on the outer fringe of sanity without a tow line sure do create beautiful things.  Why is that?!?!  Does art spring from life, or vice versa, or nada? 

Fuels my spirit...
Life is a binge: brief, sensory, unexpected, and over too soon.  Unfortunately we can't have binges every day due to time, health and budget constraings.  But whether you're creating art, families, budgets, joy, dinner plans, change, things, theater, chaos, or anything else right now, take care of yourself.  (Sometimes binging IS the best way to take care.)  My time here in Maine has been a bit of a binge, from 9-5 rehearsals, performances, long long nights full of wine and conversation, and reckless new friendships.  It fuels my spirit to go on motorcycle rides, eat 78,000 calorie meals, and do pratfalls onstage.  But all those things expend energy, and I - like all mortals - need to remember to recharge, maintain and protect myself too.  And to monitor my addictions, keeping them in the realm of positive things.  Like glitter.  Or hugs.

So binge carefully my friends, and don't spend yourselves too soon.  We all have our addictions, and we wouldn't be human without them - and perhaps the most intoxicating, dangerous and enlivening addiction of all is our addiction to each other.  As we create and share, let's share wisely; our souls don't grow back like lizard's tails.  We're all we've got.

Up next: King Lear opens this Friday at the Theater at Monmouth!  Talk about feeding your soul.  What a powerful story.  Can't wait to dive in...

Wednesday, July 20, 2011


Last week, Larissa Dzegar of "Thoughts Simply Arise" honored me with a guest writing spot.  In case you missed it, I'm now publishing it here at home.  This one is close to my heart; it was very personal and timely, a joy to write and a joy to share on Larissa's blog.  This is what it says:

When reigning Artistic Director David Greenham invited me to spend my summer with Maine's Shakespeare Theater, I wasn't sure who was wooing who.  Clearly I was enamored immediately with the theater and desperate to be likable enough to warrant an invitation to join the company.  When I received an email for a phone interview my heart went pitterpat and I said okay, Joe, this is game time.  Put on the charm for this one.  Get a job.  You can do it.

On the phone, I was so stinking charming I believe I even chatted with Dave (who is himself charming and hilarious, with bone-dry sarcasm and a lifetime of theater experience to pepper his conversation) about house additions and contracting companies - which I know next to nothing about.  And then he offered me a job, and our roles seemed to reverse.  He said humbly, courtingly, "Are you SURE you want to step out of your life for 10 weeks and come to Maine?"  I remember how smiley my voice was.  It drew my roommate out of the kitchen to make sure I was alright (normally my voice is not exactly smiley).  "David," I said, "I would love to step out of my life for 10 weeks."

Calamity isn't gunshy
It's one thing to talk big.  I can talk big about a lot of things.  I can talk big about dropping everything for 10 weeks and build myself up to be some kind of gun-slinging desperado.  I can talk big about being a gypsy, eating three plates of pasta in one sitting, heartbreaking, moving on, adulthood, professionalism, double entendres, flirting; but when the rubber meets the road I find myself shrinking a little from my bold words, distracted and worried by ghostly whispers and flashbacks.  Last time this didn't end so well...I know where this is going....I was kidding...no you're right I wasn't kidding..were you kidding?...damnYup, this is happening.

Gunshy.  Listen to this song and you'll know what I mean:


I've stepped out of my life for 10 weeks and into...still my life.  As my father likes to say, "You always take yourself with you."  Usually I'm pretty good with the confidence and risk taking, but sometimes I feel less like a sexy beast and more like a hot mess.  Leaps of faith can be hard to make and wisdom is hard to come by.

How do you know what - and who - to let in?  As artists I know there's an eagerness to be open, to live dangerously and fully and impulsively and I am ALL ABOUT THAT - for about 3 weeks.  Then I start feeling feelings and I'm afraid to pull the trigger.  How does one do all that, and still have a home inside oneself to rest in - a home that goes with you wherever you lay your head?
say yes?

I remember in my second year of graduate school I had the "Say Yes to Everything and Everyone" phase, where I let so many people and things into my heart I could no longer hear my own voice in my head.  After about 6 months I was dizzy and heartsick, but not very sorry.  It took me about a year to be sorry.  Now, sometimes I miss the extreme peak experiences I had back then.  Life out of grad school is a little more about surviving, which sometimes isn't as fun...but I'm a little hesitant to toss myself to the winds.  There's an element of maturity that wants to control and monitor a person, a performance, a self.  My pendulum doesn't seem to know how to fall to center: I'm always a freakish uber-marionette or a wanton will o' the wisp.  Was my mother right?  Are all things really moderation?

Honestly, I kind of hope not.  Ultimately, what do I got to lose by taking a chance?  It's just one small human heart.  As Beatrice says in Much Ado About Nothing, "Poor fool (heart), it keeps to the windy side of care."

with the skeletons
Every day is starting again.  Some days that's exciting to me - when I know my lines, when I know how I feel, when I know what I want to do - or when I don't know what I want to do and can't wait to figure it out as I go.  Sometimes the idea of starting again makes me not want to wake up, preferring my dream people and dream lives.  Sometimes when I hear a foreign voice say, "Let me in," I am running to the door or the window or the skylight and throwing back the shutters, shivering in sun, damning the torpedoes and racing full speed ahead.  Other times when that voice comes along suddenly I'm hiding in the closet with the skeletons, afraid to meet those green eyes or blue eyes or brown eyes or whatever color pleases God eyes.  Afraid to be unprofessional.  Afraid to be professional.
It's just one small human heart


What if...what if this time...

Today, I'm a bit embarrassed to report, I'm hiding in the closet.  You can come in too though.  We can share my flashlight and listen to this beautiful song again, and try to muster the courage to open the door.

For the record, since this was written several weeks ago and published last week, I DID manage to get up, open the door, and toss myself into some adventures.  More on that later...  :)

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

GypsyJoe Goes for a Gypsy Jaunt

     Or, "Ode to Larissa"
Yup, this is Larissa.  Isn't she RIDICULOUS??
Larissa Dzegar is the host, creative director, CEO and spark behind the diverse and heartfelt blog "Thoughts Simply Arise." Among her many hats, she is a producing artist and performer of many bold and beautiful theater projects in New York City.  In her spare time she also manages to be an extremely talented baker, yogini and all around good egg.  A couple of weeks ago she caught me off guard with a startling, exciting and humbling idea.  "Hey Jeanne Joe", she said, "Wanna write a guest post for my super amazing shiny successful beautiful intelligent sassy and pertinent blog?  It can be about anything you want because for some crazy reason I trust you to come up with something that's not wildly inappropriate.  The world is your oyster."   
Ok those were not her exact words, but that is what I heard.  And what I said was, "Hellz yes!"  And what I came up with was an article called "Gunshy."   Today she has done me the tremendous honor of posting said article. You should go read it.  Right now.  And while you're over there at Larissa's blog, browse her many beautifully written articles, fall in love with her and become a fan.  
Thank you Larissa for letting GypsyJoe travel with you on your journey. You're an incredible artist, inspiring instigator, and generous woman. It is a decided pleasure to know you and collaborate with you.