Tuesday, November 28, 2006


Sisters: Wendi, Jessica, Agata, Jolie Beth, Auvrey, Jeanise, Barbara, Shelley, Kim and many others
Josh, Mama and Daddy
my childhood, my grandparents, my education, my past
Modern travel, namely airplanes
Modern communication
Antique communication (letters from home)
Tears and the peace that resolves them
Clean rooms and dishes in the dishwasher
Turning a key and hearing an engine start
Samuel Beckett and Shakespeare
Dogs and cats
Singing in the car, singing in the shower, singing in church
Students, sweet souls who teach me as I attempt to teach them
Joni Mitchell, The Beatles, Led Zepplin, and Jesus Christ Superstar
Jasmine Tea, Orange Tea, Green Tea
Bottles of water beside my bed
Clean sheets and soft pillows
Chocolate, cereal, milk and Campbell's tomato soup
Sunny windows
Soaking in hot water
Soft white towels, perfume and lotion
Hands on my shoulders, arms around my neck
Eyes that look into mine and see me
Deep breaths
New days
"There is a time for everything, and a season for every purpose under heaven."
Hope you had a happy Thanksgiving.

Friday, November 10, 2006


Educational and community theatre can be the most demanding work to be had. Last weekend the musical I directed opened at a local University, and tonight the show in which I'm appearing is opening. This Monday I will be conducting auditions for the next show I'm directing. My best friend and roommate is directing and costuming, so this month I found myself directing a show, helping out a friend by being in a show, shopping for costumes and props, and staying in the costume shop until 6:30 in the morning to make sure the actors have everything they need for opening night. People say, "Slow down! Life is about people, not work." And secretly, they call me a work-aholic.

They just don't get it. I can't imagine a better way to spend my life. You might think that's crazy, but since theatre is about community and creation, giving yourself to it seems as natural to me as loving a child in my womb. The work is a part of me - as close to me as the blood in my veins. I do it because I love the artistic process. I love the people by my side (my students, fellow actors and artists). I care about the community who sees our work. It's my home. They are my family. And opening night is Christmas morning.

So, am I a work-aholic, or am I just in love?

Sunday, August 27, 2006


It has been raining...storming since around 6pm last night, and little Sam hasn't been out, so when I got up to pace the floor he sprang from his bed and ran to the back door to see if the rain had slowed. We went outside together where the storm had calmed to a gentle dropping rain. My bare feet slapped the wet pavement of the concrete patio as we ran around it together. I inhaled the scent of wet red clay soaked with rain. My cotton gown began to weigh with rainwater as strands of damp hair clung to my face and shoulders, but the warmth of the August night shielded me from chill. An angel in white cotton, I began to spin, arms outstretched, under the branches of an elm tree. It is Sunday morning, and I worship.

Thursday, August 17, 2006

I flew out to Indiana last week to visit my younger brother and his lovely wife. (Thanks for your hospitality, guys.)

I was overwhelmed by their simple but simply extravagant hospitality. I slept on an airmattress on the floor of their living room, but I couldn't have been more comfortable in a suite at the Ritz. The highlighted activities of the week were
1) taking a walk around Wabash College in Crawfordsville, Indiana
2) going shopping with my brother and sister-in-law to buy a new TV
3) eating, drinking, and making merry

And here's my icing on the cake: During the trip home, I got to have a sleepover in Dallas with my cousins (they are 2 and 4 months). One of them generously gave up his bed to me while he slept in his brother's crib. Their mom (also my cousin) fed me Campbell's soup, peanut butter and jelly, and apple juice. I also had brunch at Denny's with a favorite aunt. Fancy, huh?

Don't misunderstand me! I am NOT scoffing! Would you believe me if I told you that last week was one of the most enjoyable weeks of my life?

Despite terror threats, flight delays, and (still) lost baggage...I was in the Atlanta airport for 9 hours, and folks, that's 9 hours with no lipgloss, and yes, I'm still waiting on my suitcase. Thanks, AirTran!...Despite ALL this, I wouldn't have changed that trip for the world.

I made new and deeper connections with some of the people in this world who love me the most. I got to have 15 precious spur-of-the-moment minutes in Atlanta during my layover with my dearest and oldest friend. (I love you, baby!) I even made a new friend on the plane between Atlanta and Indy who made that leg of the journey literally fly. Just a few of the many ways Heaven shines down when we open our hearts, shrug off discomfort, and smile at airline employees.

I am blessed.

Thursday, July 13, 2006

I celebrate my birthday this month, and instead of naming my exact age I'll just say that I'm well established as a "thirtysomething." I got an iPod for my birthday, so I'm fully a part of the 21st century. As soon as I figure out how it works, I'll let you know how I'm enjoying it.

July is one of my favorite months; fireworks and hotdogs, watermelon and cookouts, outdoor theatre at Oklahoma Shakespeare in the Park sitting on a blanket under a starry southwestern sky.

At the end of last month I had the pleasure of accompanying a group of Oklahoma Christian students on a trip to Stratford, Ontario to take in the Stratford Shakespeare Festival with a brief excursion to the Niagara Falls area to see Arms and the Man at the Shaw Festival. I saw eight plays in five days. In addition to Arms, I saw Henry IV Part I, The Duchess of Malfi (a Jacobean play, not Shakespeare), Coriolanus, Oliver (yeah, a musical...I'm not sure why I did that), Much Ado About Nothing, The Glass Menagerie, and a modern experimental play by a Canadian playwright entitled Harlem Duets. For a theatre artist like me it was a nourishing experience. I now want to save up all year so that I can return to the festival annually.

While seeing the shows through the eyes of a younger generation was illuminating, I also enjoyed contributing to the students' experience by sharing my views and observations about the plays we were seeing and allowing them to share their thoughts with me in return. My favorite show at the festival was Coriolanus starring Colm Feore in the title role. When I sat down to read Coriolanus before the trip, I couldn't even get through it which is a tribute to the brilliance of the acting and directing of the Stratford production.

After my immersion in stunning visual and theatrical art, I found myself shifting between pure ectasy and becoming completely despondent with thoughts running through my head like "I've been working my entire life to create art that can't possibly compare with the work these people are doing." This is an important lesson on the dangers of comparing oneself to others. I find myself playing the "comparison game" in many areas of my life, and it is purely destructive. What makes me feel that what I do isn't as valuable a contribution as the contributions of the Stratford artists? Lately, I've been trying to remind myself that I influence student artists around me on a daily basis, possibly a future Colm Feore among them. I've really lost my sense of humor with the attitude toward teachers that they are "those who can't do." Is this an appropriate attitude to take toward those people who on a daily basis inspire, challenge, and give their lives to the pursuit of making the world a smarter place?

Granted, all teachers aren't perfect, but most of us could have been successful in many other areas but chose education because we found within ourselves the drive to give back-to pass on our passion and talent for understanding literature, math, biology, music or theatre. I don't know who I'd be without Mrs. Guy (Kindergarten), Mrs. Beth VanRheenan (High School English), Mr. Craig Jones (7th-12th grade Chorus), Miss Linda Arnold (9th grade History), Dr. Ellis (Technical Theatre), Prof. Robin Miller (Acting and Directing) and many others too numerous to name from elementary school through two graduate school programs.

I'd love to wipe this destructive and negative phrase out of our cultural vocabulary, but for now I'll have to settle for tweaking the phrase:

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

I know you haven't heard from me in a while, and I don't really have an excuse. The month of May was just too boring for words. As a teacher or student for most of my life (well let's face it-ALL my life), I get summers off beginning in May. Fun right! Jealous? For most of our lives we're conditioned to look forward to summer break-an end to work, an end to stress, a break from the daily grind. Quite honestly, a few days break from the daily grind is about all I can stand before I start to get really sick of myself. In my thirties summer usually means 10 extra pounds and isolation from humanity. "Help wanted" ads at the funeral parlor start to look really appealing. I wake up at 11:00, and straggle to the computer to check my empy inbox. The highlight of my day is 3:00 when I eat lunch and watch Dr Phil. Pathetic! "What did I get that MFA for? Did I just purchase a really expensive hobby?" These are the thoughts that send me into spirals of depression and snacking.

In June I received my lifeline. I have just accepted a position as Associate Artistic Director for Oklahoma City Theatre Company. Not THE head honcho but the Associate Head Honcho. My job includes setting up a school touring program for the company that we are calling CLASSICS LIVE. The focus of the program will be to instill love for the classics in school kids from 5th through 12 grades. We will perform 45 minute versions of classic literature from Shakespeare to Beowulf. We will also plan and teach workshop sessions for the kids to expose them to the material in a more interactive way. In addition to setting up the program, making sure we have scripts adapted, actors and director recruited, shows booked, AND the grant money to make it all happen in time for fall, I'm also in charge of OCTC's New Play Festival which is scheduled for spring '07. But don't think I'm giving up teaching. No, no, no. I already have plans to direct the musical at Oklahoma Christian in the fall, and if they offer me a class or two...well, why not. I already have the lesson plans. Whew!

Some of the people in my life worry: "Rachel, I don't want you to overwork yourself. Are you sure you have the energy for all that?" Are you kidding? This is a dream come true. A whole summer full of too much to do. Maybe this year I'll even lose weight. Starving artist has taken on a whole new meaning this year. I was starving, yes STARVING, wasting away spiritually and emotionally for want of work.

Enjoy your vacation.

Thursday, March 23, 2006

Most people think it's complete nonsense to jump out of a perfectly good airplane, and before this past August I would have agreed. This summer I had the opportunity to go skydiving for the first time, and I discovered an experience and an international sub-culture like no other.

My first (and only) jump to date (yes, I plan to go again), was a tandem jump. A professional skydiver (a native of South Africa) strapped himself to my back and we jumped through the door together. He was responsible for pulling the rip cord and guiding us to the drop zone, so I could just enjoy the ride. I was immediately surprised by the lack of a sense of falling. Personally, I hate rollercoasters and other amusement park rides, but skydiving is completely different. Instead of that nauseous, motion-sick feeling in my stomach, I felt relaxed. It's like flying or floating because the wind pressure gives the sensation that you're hardly moving at all. It's loud--as if you're hanging your head out of a car door at 90 mph, but as soon as the parachute is released you experience the most peaceful quiet. I could see for miles and miles, and because we went in late afternoon, I could see the moon rising. I felt a closeness to God, and a simultaneous sense of my own power and powerlessness. I was shocked at how spiritual the experience was for me.

After three very difficult-physically demanding and emotionally charged-years in graduate school, a peace suddenly came over me that is difficult to describe. The residue of graduate school-the pain and frustration I had been holding onto-seemed as far away as the ground below. I could see those who had hurt me in my life for what they are, as tiny and insignificant as I am compared to the scale and enormity of the universe.
When we finally came to rest on the grassy field, I wanted to stay very still. I wanted to lie supine on the cool ground facing the sky where I had just been as I enjoyed the pungent aroma of the earth and grass all around me. I was unable to speak about the experience for several days afterward. Perhaps I'll share a poem I wrote about it later. For now, I still want to keep many of my feelings private. I'm only writing this now to encourage all of you to treat yourselves to this life-changing experience. Go if you have the chance. Skydiving is not just about falling, it's also about seeing.

When once you have tasted flight,
you will always walk the earth
with your eyes turned skyward;
For there you have been,
and there you will long to return.

Tuesday, March 21, 2006


Maybe I'm feeling this way because it's spring, but I have an overwhelming urge to throw everything in my house away and start over. It seems like all the things I treasure are rotting in a closet or an attic anyway. After a while these "treasures" only exist in my mind. Do I really need a tangible object to connect me to a time in my childhood or a deceased relative?

In some instances, yes I do. I need the porcelain magnolia that sat in my Granny's entryway. I have it displayed on a desk that I walk by and use every day. Having it and seeing it constantly, reminds me that she is still very much a part of who I am today. It reminds me of her love for flowers and her love for me. Why? Because I have memories of childhood, treasured memories of her all tangled and tied up with that object. Obviously, I would remember my Granny without having this tangible reminder, but seeing it everyday keeps her close to me. In the midst of the craziness and chaos of my life, I think I need to be reminded of a simpler time when no place felt more loving or more secure than Granny's lap.

If I love something (because it connects me to something of deeper value, because it reminds me of people I love and their love for me), I need to display it.
Stop buying useless junk just because it's pretty. What meaningful, and therefore beautiful, things are packed away in a box somewhere of no use to anyone?
If it's packed away, unused and uncared f0r, I need to give it away, sell it, or toss it. Excavate the treasure, but the junk's gotta go. It's smothering me.
Here's a poem for today...

Let's not talk about the books
hardback, paperback, on shelves, floors, tables, desks,
heavy lumps of rotting thoughts
eaten slowly by invisible pests
vapid tomes clung to
like war-time letters from forgotten lovers
without faces
Don't mention the books.

-Rachel Carter