5 Simple Ways to Start Leading the Good Life

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1. Celebrate the ordinary and less than extraordinary. Because you can’t win the Nobel Peace Prize every day of the year. Cheer on the small moments in between the large ones, and you’ll start to notice how those peaks will advance towards you in rapid succession.

2. Get outside when it’s still light out. Summer’s official start date is tomorrow. How are you going to revel in it?

3. Make time for yourself. A whole good amount of it. Come to know yourself better than the tabloids know Justin Bieber’s whereabouts. Treat yourself to that manicure, bask leisurely for an hour doing absolutely nothing, and recharge. No point in running on empty.

4. Sing and dance like no one is watching/like the entire world is watching. These two should be one in the same. It’s often assumed that the scrutiny of many is a negative thing. If you truly approach whatever the task at hand is with gusto, people will notice, take note and maybe get a little bit inspired. Don’t apologize for loving the things that you do.

5. Unplug. From your cell phone, Facebook, from the endless internet to-do list. Go have an adventure. It’ll be there when you come back.

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World’s A Stage: Spotlight on Belarus

Theater was made to push the boundaries, but what happens when your country wants to maintain those artificial limits? One theatre group in Belarus has made a commitment from allowing their home to silence their (powerful) voices.

Belarus Free Theatre is an underground theatre group that operates primarily in secret, holding unofficial rehearsals and free performances in small private apartments, cafes, or wooded areas. Seen as theatrical vigilantes at constant risk of persecution, they constantly change their venues and have no specific theatrical home. Members of the theatre have been attacked by the police and held for their participation in the Belarus Free Theatre activities. The stage director and other associates were fired from their jobs at state-run theatres for their involvement in the movement.

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Being Harold Pinter at the mid-April 2007 conference Artist and Citizen: 50 Years of Performing Pinter, in England

The group was established in March 2005 by human rights activist, playwright and journalist, Nikolai Khalezin, and Natalia Koliada, a theatre producer and Khalezin’s wife. The group’s mission was to resist the overwhelming pressure and censorship of Belarus’ president, Alexander Lukashenka.

As the only modern theatre force in the country, the government is challenged by Belarus Free Theatre’s commitment to performing uncensored works. All other theatre is state-run, allowing the country to dictate the programming, resulting in a stale version of theatre which cannot appropriately discuss all aspects of contemporary life. The guerilla theatre group pushes for its creative freedom daily, risking their own security for the promise of truth in art.

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Belarus Free Theatre in the short play by Jean-Pierre Thibaudat, one of the 12 featured in ‘Eurepica. Challenge.’

On 22 August 2007, during the Free Theatre’s première of Edward Bond’s theatrical piece Eleven Vests, Belarusian special forces stormed a performance in a private apartment in Minsk, and arrested actors, directors, and audience members. The founder, Khalezin, has now unfortunately become accustomed to these surprises, stating that the police would regularly burst into performances with machine guns in order to demonstrate power. At this point he does not fear for himself, but does notice that it is taking its toll on those who have never been arrested before. He’s afraid that these brave audience members won’t come back. Regardless of the pressure, the show resumed the next day in one of the private houses outside of Minsk. Police took video of the event from the forest.

The next few years were moderately less tumultuous but on December 19, 2010, fifty thousand citizens took to the streets to protest what they believed to be the rigged election of Alexander Lukashenko. More than a thousand of those were beaten and arrested, including Artistic Director Natalia Koliada, along with other artistic figures.  At the Belarus Embassy in London, Ian McKellen and a number of leaders from the artistic community protested the arrests, bringing international attention to the issue. Natalia Koliada was released, while Nikolai Khalezin went into hiding, where he remains.

The turmoil  has been worth it for those in the ensemble, almost all of whom have served time behind bars. Notable playwrights (Tom Stoppard, Harold Pinter, Václav Havel, and Arthur Kopit) have supported the Free Theatre, with Pinter himself  so impressed by their biographical work [Being Harold Pinter] that he gave the troupe rights to perform any of his plays for free. 


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How to Celebrate Like It’s the End of the World

“Life is intrinsically, well, boring and dangerous at the same time. At any given moment the floor may open up. Of course, it almost never does; that’s what makes it so boring.”  – Edward Gorey

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Some claim that we’re coming to the end of an era tomorrow, and even if we’ve got a couple thousand more years on the planet, what better excuse to celebrate.
Time to inject a little life into your life:

Surrender your fear. Give it up. You’ve been hanging on to it as if it would somehow serve you to keep it close. The time to let go is now.

Break open that bottle “you’ve been saving for a special occasion.” We create our own memorable moments. What’s stopping you from letting your next one be sooner than you imagined?

Share love. Say it, show it, do anything that brings an extra iota of kindness into this world. Maybe start here.

High five 5 people on seemingly meaningless tasks. You changed the water filter? High five. You threw away a piece of garbage you saw laying out? High five for you. It’s the little things folks…

Dance to ridiculous pop music. This year has been full of hits – some addicting, some cringeworthy, but all totally dance-able. Thank ’em for bringing these earworms into the world.

Donate a chunk of change, belongings or your time to a cause you can totally get behind. Even when you think you have nothing to give, you never know who may be astounded by what you have to offer.

Throw caution to the wind. Excuses will pile up and keep you from opening the door if you let them. Reassess what’s been blocking your path, then decide whether or not clinging to old obstacles is worth more to you that getting what you want out of life.

Speak your truths. Your voice is the only one like it in the entire world. To deprive yourself of self-expression means society loses out on your voice. And they will never get a crack at it, ever again. So put words onto your perspective and share your  story.

Create your own calendar. If the Mayans can do it, so can you. Make up your own holidays and highlight the days that lit you up once upon a time. Then celebrate each and every day you get to cross off the year.

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Bite-Sized Wisdom: Von Goethe

This German playwright breaks down an ideal way to spend the day. Funny how prescriptions from centuries gone by can still be entirely apt today.

“Every day we should hear at least one little song, read one good poem, see one exquisite picture, and, if possible, speak a few sensible words.”
– Johann Wolfgang Von Goethe

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There Is No Try, There is Only Do

If she can pull off this ridiculous display of talent and sing live, we should forever reconsider our willingness to put up with lipsynching performances.

Things to be on the lookout for:

1. Inverted splits. May as well start off on a high note.

2. Counter balance holds. Harmony through tension, as the two use each other to pull off full body balance poses.  

3. Belting while crashing into any/everything. Just watch and enjoy.

World’s A Stage: Spotlight on Sri Lanka

The theatre scene in Sri Lanka has been long in the making. As a country with roots in Theravada Buddhism, many believed that it was vital to tend toward solitary contemplation versus congregational practices or participation in community life. Thus, theatre arts were hard to come by until the 1950s when a serious scene began to develop. Local theatre has since become a melange of early folk ritual, dance drama, and Western theatre, creating a medium unlike any other.

The most recent hit out of the country is a new musical by Jehan Aloysius entitled ‘Rag’ which grapples with the divisive practice of ragging – a ritual seen by some as an equalizing activity, and by others as worse than bullying and hazing. Ragging is typically enforced by senior students on younger ones and includes forced consumption of alcohol, insects, and/or chemicals, physical exertion to the point of organ failure, and an assortment of humiliating activities meant to break the newcomers upon their arrival.

The show’s creator, director, composer and lead actor, Aloysius, has been developing the show for more than ten years, sparked by his own experiences with ragging at university. When Aloysius first received his university acceptance letter he was filled with dread and hid it from his mother. Four months later she found it, and off to school he went.

During his eventual ragging, he was spared some of the worst practices but he says that his classmates underwent processes worse than what he could have imagined. Some of these events have made their way into the show. While the show circles instances of rape, discrimination, shame and suicide, the writer’s efforts to reveal the darker side of university life ultimately provide for a cathartic experience.

Aloysius sought out a cast who had experienced ragging first-hand and after auditioning 250 people, he assembled his lead cast of 12. The story follows the creator’s character, Joseph, who starts a non-violent anti-ragging movement which runs into opposing forces who say it must be violently resisted. The result is an empowering musical that’s breaking boundaries abroad.

The show’s standing ovations and rapturous praise stand testament to the idea that creative expression continues to be one of the best mediums for processing struggle.
If something goes wrong, make art.

This is Halloween

Happy Ghouls Day! How are you celebrating this odd and wonderful holiday?

Even if you don’t get the chance to don a costume today, why let that stop you from getting into the Halloween spirit? I’ve collected a few tunes that tend to send chills up my spine.  Let them help you wriggle into the mood as well.

Stars- Dead Hearts: Haunting lyrics and a simple tune that will not leave you alone. Sure to plant itself in your mind for an hour or two.

Marilyn Manson- This is Halloween: His take on the Tim Burton film’s classic tune grates on you in the best possible way. Disturbing, effective.

Nina Simone – I Put a Spell on You: Her sultry voice on this wicked song makes for a truly addicting treat.

Yeah Yeah Yeahs- Heads Will Roll: A perfect pump-up Halloween style song. Angry anthem with some serious bite.

Talking Heads – Psycho Killer: I love the slightly butchered (appropriate) French that peppers this song. Fafafafafafa fafafa far better than a number of other songs playing on the radio.

That’s five to get you started. What other songs get you freaked out / do you freak out to this time of year?

Bite-sized Wisdom: Tharp

Whatever you’ve been through, whatever your story may be, know that giving up only hurts you. But believing? Oh, that’s where the good stuff happens friend.

“Optimism with some experience behind it is much more energizing than plain old experience with a certain degree of cynicism.”

– Twyla Tharp

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World’s A Stage: Spotlight on France

When thinking of Mozart, the notion of early rock-star may not come to mind. A child prodigy, yes. A whiz on the ivories, no doubt. But emo-rock sex symbol? The creative team behind Mozart l’Opera Rock certainly thought so; they re-envisioned his life for the stage and took France by storm.

The musical, a mashup of new pop-rock and traditional Mozart compositions, premiered in late 2009. Though not as critically well-received as some other tuners out of France in the recent years(including Notre Dame de Paris, Le Petit Prince, and Le Roi Soleil) the show’s glittering reimagining of the 18th century composer’s life devloped a large fan following and went on to tour through Europe and the rest of France.  

Take a glance at this cheeky single that became one of the show’s most popular anthems. The song follows Wolfgang as he attempts to distribute his music and find a job in Paris. The lyrics dabble with sexual wordplay (somewhat evident, though undoubtedly less subtle, in the English subtitles available on this version). Enjoy this stroll down anachronism lane with Mr. Mozart himself.

 

World’s A Stage: Spotlight on New Zealand

Because you can’t take me anywhere without me clambering to check out a show, New Zealand has become the next stop on our global theatre tour.

The day before I left for the trip, I scoured the theatre results in Wellington until I happened upon the title “Chekhov in Hell.” Intrigued, it only took a quick description to sell me on a Saturday night ticket:

“Anton Chekhov, playwright, author and pitiless observer of Russian society, awakes from a hundred-year coma and finds himself in twenty-first century London”

That, and the promo photos:

This show at the Circa Theatre, one of the seven professional venues in New Zealand, takes a careful lens to our modern day habits. Illuminating without criticising, it asks the audience to consider how we may be inhibiting our lives by trying to add more to them. Obviously this applies to the technoaddiction many face, but the more interesting discussions were those of gastronomy and fashion.

Chekhov tries to get a bite to eat at a restaurant and is presented with an assortment of molecular gastronomy “delights” and deconstructed food items. The chef seems stunned when the Russian passes on a dish of chicken sashimi. And while this plate of raw chicken is a hyperbole on what’s found in mod restaurants nowadays, it still begs the question of where to draw the line between food that’s an elevated art form, and food that’s simply no longer food.

The show’s playwright shows a bit more teeth during Chekhov’s encounter with the high-class fashion world. A designer invents sexist outfits on the spot for some of his models as Chekhov stands by and wonders aloud how he gets them to adopt such trends. The designer launches into a self-assured monologue about how he can suggest a look, and consumers will lap it up. Further, he suggests that people like being told what to do, making them easily dominable as very few want to take authority over their own lives.

The play itself had some very thoughtful moments and the show does not offer any prescriptions in its prose. Leaving the audience to decide for themselves whether our modern ways are inevitable, worth amending, or simply not up to Chekhov’s standards.

While I left wishing could hear more from Chekhov, this show still makes anachronism undeniably hip.

Image Credit: Circa Theatre

I Was Just A Card

There’s something so addicting about this choreographer’s work. Her young dancers are well trained, yes. But the true power of her pieces comes from a true understanding of how to convey human emotion through performance. Instead of peacock-ing and showing off the talent of each member of her company, she showcases their vibrancy through storytelling. And we all love a good story…

World’s A Stage: Spotlight on Germany

You’ve never seen Shakespeare like this my friends. The Berliner Ensemble is reknowned for their aggressive and direct method of performing. Screaming at the audience? Yup. Mashing food into their face as they perform? Happens all the time. Breaking down that 4th wall? Each and every chance they get.

That’s why in 2009, when the group tackled Shakespeare’s 400 year old sonnets, the result was anything but traditional. This incredibly distinctive production from director Bob Wilson with music by Rufus Wainwright featured gender reversal, shadowplay, unforgettable makeup,  and of course nods to Brecht and Weill (of Threepenny Opera fame).

Take a look at how the Berliner Ensemble tackles the world of Shakespeare and instantly invites you to join them on their hallucinatory ride. Something about the coarseness of the performing style met with the Bard’s infamous words seems like the perfect oxymoron, and yet this production succeeds because it challenges any preexisting notions of Shakespeare’s work.

You Can Dance If You Want To

“To dance is to be out of yourself. Larger, more beautiful, more powerful. This is power, it is glory on earth and it is yours for the taking”

-Agnes De Mille

There’s something absolutely wonderful about these shots of some of the greats in rehearsal. Little moments before the polish went on, right in the midst of finessing a piece. Yet even in these “rough” shots, it’s easy to pick out the stars. They’re electric. Eartha Kitt and James Dean hanging in dance class? No biggie. Bob Fosse demonstrating wild 90 degree angle wrists for his troupe? Makes it look easy. Judy Garland and Gene Kelly catching some serious air? Obsessed.

What is your signature move? Dare you find time in your day to try out any of those above.

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