Funny, I thought I would have already posted again long before now, more than a month since I claimed to have dusted off and revived the Drama, Daily blog. But that was not what life had in store for me while in quarantine with my partner and my three kids ages 4 to 13. These past nine weeks life has consisted of everything and nothing around here.
It’s been a lot.
I have been so hard-pressed to string together a few uninterrupted minutes each day to think, read, write, create that I have sought out old and new means to experience much as a sliver of a taste of what it is to feel sane, sustained, productive, vital.
Here’s how I’ve (barely) coped:
I have returned to Twitter, an even dustier area of my online writing life than this blog. Seeing familiar theatre folks that I first met on Twitter ten years ago still active has been a comfort; at the same time, seeing how the theatre community on Twitter has evolved has been informative, even exciting. In spite of my happy return to Tweetsville, some days, many days, I can’t muster up what it takes to compose a coherent 280-character tweet.
I have turned to poetry, particularly the haiku. This mini but mighty poetic form (a 3 line poem with a 5/7/5 consecutive syllable pattern) has been a boon on days when I feel more prolific than zero words but incapable of a whole tweet or a blog post or editing a book chapter or finishing an article or making ‘Zoom theatre.’ I don’t think I had given any thought to the haiku since a creative writing course I took in college, but it (re)entered my life at some point in April, a few weeks into my kids’ distance learning experience. Of my three kids, my eight-year old son received the most assignments, including what seemed like countless 5-paragraph essays. (Yeah, remember those?) The weight of the workload was clearly taking a toll on him and his classmates and presumably also on his teachers (and most definitely on us and other parents as vociferously expressed on the interwebs). And then, one day, poof: a poetry assignment. The haiku was our salvation, the perfect piece of low hanging literary fruit. Endeared by my son’s efforts with the form, I tried it myself, and I soon after discovered a new community on Twitter: (aspiring) poets who do a daily #haikuchallenge. I was down for this. Below are a few of mine:
I run in the rain / “Wash my worries away please”: / I beg the wise sky.
The road is anew / Resurfaced by artful rain / A splashy debut.
Below is the photo-inspiration for the haiku above. I took the picture during a post-rain puddle-jumping outing with my partner and two younger kids.
The day I wrote that last haiku I felt like I should send out an S.O.S. to the universe: “Help, I’ve resorted to writing really shit haikus!” But I didn’t. I was at least attempting writing something. Yep. It summed up how I felt. Glib. Bored.
I have started listening to (and really enjoying) podcasts. Outside of visiting the Florida Department of Health website and consulting the Johns Hopkins COVID-19 website’s daily situation reports, I have obtained all that I need or care to know in the way of pandemic and other news from podcasts: various offerings by New York Times (“The Daily” is a favorite. “The Argument” is good.), Financial Times, Wall Street Journal, and NPR. I hate TV news. I have hated it my entire adult life. I grew up in a home where network and cable news played incessantly as an underscore while my mom did housework, ironing especially. A young me vowed never to do that. I also swore never to watch the news before bedtime. In an emotionally naked email exchange with a friend recently, I shared my feelings of encompassing sadness, to which she responded something to this effect: “Are you watching the news? You may not know this about me, but I don’t watch the news, ever.” I was comforted by our mutual avoidance. Beyond news podcasts, I have found enjoyment in a growing list of arts, culture, and parenting podcasts. A few notables include: Three on the Aisle (theatre), Parenting Beyond Discipline, The Bowery Boys, bon appetit’s “Foodcast,” NYT’s “Popcast,” Financial Times’ Culture Call.
I have created a podcast, “Thoughts on Theatre” (soon to be available on iTunes), a new offering of my theatre company, Thinking Cap Theatre(TCT), which is (probably) on pause for the remainder of the year, which is to say paused indefinitely (?), or maybe paused forever (?), at least in the form that it has assumed for the past decade. (So much for that 10th anniversary season.) Our inaugural podcast featured Michelle Memran, the wonderful filmmaker of The Rest I Make Up, a documentary about Maria Irene Fornes. TCT was just beginning rehearsals for Fornes’ masterpiece, FEFU AND HER FRIENDS, when stay-at-home orders went into effect. Our upcoming podcasts will feature artists who have been instrumental to TCT’s programming through the years as well as artists around the country and throughout the world who do work that resonates with TCT’s mission.
I have intermittently journaled, run outside, and reflected. I grow more convinced daily that my future is NOT in helming an experimental, feminist, and queer mission driven theatre company that produces a main stage season in South Floria. The kinds of plays and projects that I have gravitated towards as TCT’s founder and leader will remain the same. I remain true-blue on that point. Beyond that, the next decade for TCT will not look like its past ten years. I will mince (many) words and leave it at that.
I have pitched ideas to publications and websites, some timely and topical, others related to my ongoing research and writing on women in professional theatre, feminist theatre, etc. One recent pitch yielded something of particular significance to this post: an upcoming Twitter conversation entitled “Parents Artists and the Pandemic,” hosted by Howlround and moderated by me on Monday, June 1st at 2pm EST. For years, I have had a vested interest in the challenges faced by parent artists. The fluctuating and often nocturnal schedules of artists can be especially tricky to juggle for artists who are also parents. When I founded TCT, I had a four year old. Over the decade that followed, I had two more children (and finally finished my doctorate and then finally got divorced and . . . and . . . and . . . so juggling a lot is nothing new to me.) But now, on top of the usual circus act, I and so many other parent artists are struggling to cobble together work and care for our kids from home with the added twisted burdens of a public health pandemic. To revisit a phrase I used at the start of this post: it’s been a lot.
If you’ve made it this far, thanks for bearing virtual witness.
Have suggestions beyond Twitter, haikus, journaling, and podcasts for managing life and uplifting ourselves these days? Please share!
One thought on “On Parenting, Productivity, and the Pandemic”
Hi Nicole! Keep ’em coming. By the way, I hate the TV news also (and using the TV as background noise. 😦