Adventures In A Decade

As I reflect back on the last decade, it is a collection of small moments, professional and personal, surprising and spiritual, some in solitude, most in the company of friends and family, that stay with me, give me joy, and drive me forward with humility, gratitude, and optimism. I’ve been asking friends lately to share with me their favorite moments from the last 10 years.
Here are 15 memorable work moments for me.
 
1. COMPANY – New York Philharmonic. Sitting in front of Stephen Sondheim on a rapturous, sold out Opening Night, discreetly mortified that it’s my job as AD to take notes on his show in front of him.
Company
2. RESTORING LOVE – Cowboys Stadium. Choreographing an entire Baptist gospel choir in the basement of the largest venue in America, just a couple hours before live broadcasting across the world.
Restoring Love
3. LOST CAUSE – The Old Vic Theatre. Reveling in the cheeky anarchy of our actors Alison and Zoe trashing the stage of Olivier and Dench with literal American garbage, all to the sounds of a hard rock rendition of Dance Of The Sugar Plum Fairy.
Lost Cause
4. PETER PAN – Mt. Tamalpais. Arriving at the top of the Cushing Memorial Amphitheatre to encounter our set designer Erik’s massive, wildly imaginative playground set being assembled on site, the San Francisco skyline floating on clouds in the distance.
Peter Pan
5. THE WIZARD OF LIES – Rosa Mexicana, Upper East Side. Improvising three takes of a three hander scene with Robert DeNiro and Michelle Pfeiffer (that was later cut from the film.)
Wizard Of Lies
6. CONDÉ NAST – 1 World Trade Center. After a whirlwind, 48 hour prospective Editor-In-Chief initiation, suddenly pitching my ideas for the future of this global brand one by one to every executive at the top of 1 World Trade.
Conde Nast
7. THE TONY AWARDS – The Plaza Hotel. Walking the empty halls for the first time, wearing my Tommy Awards bowtie, gazing at black and white portraits of Monroe and Sinatra, minutes before the mad rush of after party attendees.
Tony Awards
8. ART BASEL – Miami. After a long, hot day, carefully placing the final inflatable ball on a makeshift art installation in the empty swimming pool of a beautiful waterfront mansion.
Art Basel
9. MONTANA – Lake Champlain. Sitting down for dinner at the lake house with our entire cast and crew the night before Day 1 of shooting, an image I’ve wanted to manifest since I was a little kid.
Montana
10. THE DROWSY CHAPERONE – Yale University. Barreling through a snow storm with my parents to arrive at our warm-in-every-way theatre on Opening Night, a week after Hurricane Sandy postponed our tech, eight months after my final grad school call back at Yale.
Drowsy Chaperone
11. SPICE IT UP – Burbank. Sharing a very specific look with my co-writer and one of my oldest friends Elspeth Keller Scott when an executive divulged some surprising information during our first pitch on the Warner Brothers lot.
Spice It Up
12. FIRE ALL OVER YOU – Venice Beach. Rehearsing and discovering a common movement vocabulary with our two remarkable and unique dancers, Rachel and Brianna, on the Casa Karmina rooftop at sunset.
Fire All Over You
13. THE HOMECOMING – A.C.T. Wordlessly communicating with Director and Artistic Director Carey Perloff across the Geary Theatre during tech, immersed in the language of a playwright I’ve loved since high school.
Homecoming
14. JULIUS CAESAR – Lincoln Center. Running around my rooftop screaming in disbelief after somehow managing to memorize Brutus in 4 days-time. (And then, in keeping with a week of quick turnarounds and bizarre career offshoots, finding out I was cast as Ryan Reynolds Body Double and needing to report to set the following morning. My screams quickly devolved into prayers that the title was not meant to be taken literally. My prayers were answered well.)
Julius Caesar
15. ALL STAR CODE – General Assembly. Leading team exercises and group conversations with our All Star Code students while the Black Lives Matter march roared on the streets below.
All Star Code
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Travel has also been one of the greatest joys in my life. It is my primary method for learning, exploring, adventuring, expanding. Travel has provided the right challenges for growth. It’s been my most dependable education. I’ve been crazy fortunate to experience some otherworldly luxury travel, but many of my trips have been full-on frugal, bootstrapping adventures. (I’m always happy to share insights from my frequent flier programs and color coded spreadsheets.) I think it’s important to place a greater focus of pride on unexpected moments of joy and wonder over accomplishments, accolades, and wins.
In keeping with this week’s reflective focus on all the small surprising moments from the last 10 years, and because long subway rides afford me the time to make long, introspective lists, here are some of my favorite travel moments from 15 different places around the world. (Unsurprisingly, food, dancing, mountaintops and bodies of water seem to be the running theme.)
 
1. JAPAN – Exploring the Hakone Open-Air Museum on a misty morning mountaintop / Surrounded by bowing deer and rainfall in Nara, turning the corner to discover the overwhelmingly majestic Tōdai-ji Temple, the world’s largest wooden structure, which houses the world’s largest bronze statue of the Buddha / Meditating with a Zen Buddhist monk in a temple outside Kyoto / Sitting in silence in the Teshima Art Museum
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2. JORDAN – Meeting with Queen Rania in Amman / Chasing after my flying hat in Wadi Rum / Smoking hookah and watching the World Cup on the beach with my parents in Aqaba
Jordan 2
3. CALIVIGNY ISLAND, GRENADA – Jet Skiing around the islands at sunset / Dancing with a massive beach bonfire under a starry night / Enjoying a thought provoking conversation over dinner with Grenada’s Minister Of Health
Grenada
4. RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – Riding the cable car up Sugarloaf Mountain / Strapping myself to a man named Zero, jumping off a mountaintop and hang gliding down to Ipanema Beach
Brazil
5. CROATIA – Watching the sun set over the Southern islands and Adriatic Sea from the top of Srd Hill in Dubrovnik / Driving from Dubrovnik to Split, stopping to jump into the Kravica waterfalls of Bosnia and Herzegovina / Roaming the empty streets of a lavender scented mountain town on the island of Hvar / Fulfilling my #1 life goal of running around an inflatable, floating playground
Croatia
6. SAN SEBASTIAN, SPAIN – Pintxo hopping the streets of Basque country at night / Laughing my way through a water massage at the beachfront spa La Perla
San Sebastian
7. THAILAND – Dancing with elephants in a river outside Chiang Mai / Playing with room controls at The Peninsula Hotel in Bangkok / Learning how to make green curry in a stranger’s waterfront home on the Chao Phraya River / Praying at the golden mountaintop temple, Doi Suthep
Thailand
8. CERNAY-LA-VILLE, FRANCE – Dancing like mad with beautiful friends in the catacombs of Abbaye Des Vaux De Cernay, a Cistercian monastery, into the wee hours of the morning
France
9. MEXICO – Dining cliffside with friends old and new at El Farallon in Pedregal Resort, Cabo / Savoring one of my favorite meals ever at Arca, from Chef Jose Luis Hinostroza of Noma in Copenhagen / Surfing in Todos Santos / Reading on the back porch at El Banco
Mexico 2
10. BALI, INDONESIA – Questing through the monkey jungle in the middle of the night to discover the Nyepi parade’s final ritual / Riding the cliff tram down to Uluwatu Beach
Bali
11. CHIPPING NORTON, ENGLAND – Walking into our full fantasy cabin at SoHo Farmhouse, where a warm loaf of bread, a jug of fresh milk, and 1940’s radio was playing/ Feeding dear friends dessert across a table with extra long forks/ Dropping my mouth to the floor upon seeing a hot air balloon lighting up out back
England 3
12. SIEM REAP, CAMBODIA – Getting lost in Angkor Wat / Exploring the floating villages
Cambodia 2
13. GUATEMALA – Hiking Pacaya, an active volcano, outside Antigua / Visiting a voodoo priestess on Lake Atitlan / Sitting with monkeys atop Temple 4 in Tikal / Volunteering with my Dad at Hospital de La Familia in Nuevo Progreso, where he’s performed free eye surgeries for three decades, and watching a formerly blind Mother come out of her operation and see the face of her teenage son for the first time in her life
Guatemala 2
14. BIG SUR, CALIFORNIA – Taking 48 hours off work and soaking in Esalen’s cliffside hot springs with three of my best friends between 1 and 3 am on a warm, clear, starry night
Big Sur
15. MONTREAL, CANADA – Bike riding around a new city with dear friends, stopping every hour to eat somewhere unexpected and wonderful
Montreal
Thanks for reading, friends. Cheers to another ten years of story telling, heart opening, mind expanding, globe trotting, community building work with you all.

Adventures In Keeping The Channel Open

Yesterday was one of those not-so-good writing days. I probably wrote three paragraphs in six hours. I snacked incessantly, took multiple breathers on my roof, and tried repeatedly to convince myself that committing a life to anything other than telling stories would be a hell of a lot…easier.

Most of the day was spent drowning in an ever swirling wormhole of unnecessarily over detailed plot mechanics. How could a man from Eastern Europe meet a woman from North Africa during World War II, and how could they have children who would eventually start a new life in America? This backstory would seem relatively simple to figure out, but an insatiable curiosity led to 54 open tabs, multiple lunches and an eventual state of high anxiety. At twilight, I closed my laptop, disappointed in my three paragraph progress, a frustration calcifying my bones into boulders.

Last night around Midnight, in a cab ride back home, the driver asked me what you call it when little droplets fall casually from the sky. “Sprinkling,” I said. He laughed at me. “Sprink-ling,” he echoed back in his thick accent, enjoying the way in which the syllables escaped his mouth. “People always say, oh God, it’s raining! It’s pouring! But sometimes it’s just sprinkling, and then it will pass.”

I asked him where he was from. He proceeded to tell me the story of how his father from North Africa studied abroad in Eastern Europe during World War II. That’s where his father met his mother. They fell in love, moved back to North Africa together, and had children who eventually moved to America in hopes of a better life. Imagine my mouth hitting the bottom of that cab. He smiled at me when I left. “Thanks for listening,” he said.

Martha Graham once said to Agnes DeMille that her only responsibility as an artist was to “keep the channel open.”

I take that to mean when you feel like you can no longer write, no longer speak, no longer sing or paint or play or dance, you can still listen. You can receive. That synchronicity is divine.

This life is indeed filled with a blessed unrest.

It is too easy to say, “It’s raining! It’s pouring!”

Some days it’s just sprinkling.

And then it will pass.

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Photo By Shannen Norman