Fiction

Fort Worth Phantom

The kids and I have not had the chance to indulge our love of stage theater since we moved to DFW three years ago. Rebooting your whole life is expensive, yo.

But Texas has been pretty good to us. Last July when I saw that the Phantom of the Opera tour was coming to Fort Worth in October, I just about sprained my finger hitting the “Buy Tickets” button.

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I chose an afternoon weekday showing, because I don’t really like driving in the city at night or dealing with big crowds. The weather turned out to be absolutely gorgeous, and there was very little traffic on the drive in. We enjoyed a delicious lunch at The Cheesecake Factory and then walked across the street for the show.

So let me wax rhapsodic for a moment about Bass Performance Hall, because it is beautiful.

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I love the two 48-foot-tall angel statues on the Grand Facade. When I got home there was something like 65 photographs on my camera just of the angels.

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The mezzanine balcony offers a charming view of the Sundance Square area.

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The Hall’s acoustics are straight up magnificent. Every note from the orchestra, every word from the performers comes through with perfect clarity and resonance. The show itself is gorgeous. The Hall is smaller than I had expected, so our front-center-mezzanine seats put us right in front of the action. We had brought opera glasses, but the only times we used them were to look closely at small details like the monkey music box or the Phantom’s unmasked face. The sets are brilliant, the scene changes are clever and seamless.

I do have one minor complaint. So let me preface it by saying that the Phantom pretty much owned every scene he sang in. His voice is strong and thrilling and just the right amount of intimidating. But…I sensed no real chemistry between him and Christine. This was an angry, frustrated Phantom who seemed almost reluctant to touch the object of his obsession. Maybe the actor played it that way on purpose, I don’t know. But since the whole premise of the story revolves around the Phantom’s ability to mesmerize Christine with the seductive force of his passion, it definitely requires a bit of chemistry to work properly. For the first time ever, Raoul looked to me like the only sensible choice for Christine, with no emotional sacrifice necessary. Don’t get me wrong, I loved the show. But I went in expecting a sensual dance between Christine and the Phantom, and instead their interactions seemed tense and at times almost perfunctory.

Still a fantastic show. Afterward we walked back to the parking garage and decided to climb the stairs all the way up for a rooftop view.

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By the way, I don’t recommend doing this. As we were leaving, a cop let us know that everything above the third level of the parking garage is for city use only and not to be accessed by the public. Oops. To be fair, there was nothing posted in the stairwell about it.

All in all though, a lovely day in a lovely city. Bass Performance Hall is an absolute delight. We will be back!

 

 

Categories: Family, Fiction, kids, Life, Weather | Tags: , , | Leave a comment

The Power of Art

Neil Gaiman recently made a fantastic speech about why we read and why we write. I love to see these kinds of articles from my favorite authors, because they all essentially boil down to the same message: we read because it helps us to understand the world we live in and to envision a better kind of world. We write because we want to share what we’ve learned and to help other people along their journeys just like all those other authors helped us. We read because it changes us for the better, and we write because we want to pay it forward.

Here is an observation I have made about writers and other artists who have overcome personal hardships to become happy and successful: they want other people to be happy and successful too, but they understand that the path to happiness and success is an effortful and often grueling journey. They urge you to remember the lessons you have learned along the way, because to forget is to risk repeating your mistakes. They share the bits of wisdom that they have accumulated on their own journeys, because that’s what writers and artists do. Sharing what we’ve learned is a huge part of what drives us to create.

One of the first things that happened when my marriage ended five years ago was that I found some new (to me) blogs and started following them closely. They were mostly written by people who were struggling through personal hardships of one kind or another and trying to make sense of their experience. Reading their words of humor and rage and sorrow and joy helped me tremendously on my own journey. They made me feel less alone and offered new insights into my own experiences. Those bloggers made a positive difference in my life. They were a big part of my healing process. Most of them I don’t follow much anymore, just because my life and theirs have all changed over the years and their experiences don’t speak to my particular issues anymore. But I’m grateful that they’ve taken the time to share their journeys, and I know that their words still help a lot of people every day.

Most of the followers of my own blog are writers or artists of some kind, so I want to bring up something that for some reason is rarely addressed in “the value of self-expression through art and literature” essays.

No matter how large or small your audience is, there are always people who want to silence you. If you’re a writer or an artist who works from personal experience, you know the people I’m talking about. When you write or paint or sing about a hardship that taught you something they get angry, not about your ordeal but at you for talking about it. They usually couch their censorship in dishonest phrases: “Just let it go,” “move on already,” “that was the past, forget about it already” and so on, as if sharing what you’ve learned — as if fulfilling one of the most basic functions of being an artist — somehow means that you’re stuck in the past and unable to move forward. But like I said, it’s dishonest, because that’s not really what they’re angry about.

Happy, successful people never tell you to forget the past, because they know that remembering the lessons it taught is your best resource for wisdom, creativity and good judgement. And they never tell you to stop writing about it (or painting about it, or singing about it), because they know that the world becomes a better place one heartfelt insight at a time. If your art doesn’t speak to their interests they don’t make it a part of their lives, but it would probably never occur to them to tell you to stop making it. Censorship is the natural enemy of creativity and personal growth, and most artists intuitively understand that. Those people who are telling you to “Shut up and get over it” are not interested it your well-being. They operate within the system of dysfunction: they are either exploiters who don’t want your art to empower their victims, or they are exploitees who have become so entrenched in their victimhood that being encouraged to break free and take control of their own lives feels threatening and hostile. (Or, in rare cases, they have never experienced true hardship and don’t understand how healing and growth work. Don’t envy them; when their turn inevitably comes they are tragically unprepared. If they’re fortunate, they will discover the value and power of art when they’re reaching for a lifeline on the way down.)

So this message is for everyone out there who creates art as a way to work through difficult experiences or to share what they’ve learned with others: don’t listen to the people who try to convince you that the “healthy” way to deal with your experience is to pretend it never happened. Their intent is the opposite of their words. They don’t want success stories or the sharing of lessons. Censorship breeds ignorance, and ignorance makes people gullible and easy to manipulate. There’s a reason why art and censorship are natural enemies.

So keep telling your stories and keep making your art. The people who try to convince you that it’s unhealthy are putting their own unhealth on display. (And don’t try to silence them, of course. It’s important for people to learn to recognize dysfunction when they are exposed to it. By all means, call them on it if you’re so inclined, but remember that censorship of all kinds creates more victims than it protects.)

Somewhere out there is someone who needs to hear your story. Go tell it loud and clear.

Categories: Artwork, books, Fiction | Tags: , , | Leave a comment

At Year’s End

My poor neglected blog. I see that the last time I posted here was in August, and here we are on the last day of December. I can’t use the excuse that nothing’s been happening, because 2012 has pretty much consisted of one life-changing event after another. In fact, so many wonderful and terrible things have happened this year that I almost failed to notice when a lifelong dream quietly came true a few weeks ago.

In my defense, I’ve been a bit distracted. Let’s look at the scorecard, shall we?

In 2012 I wrote the complete outline and about 90% of the first draft of what I hope will become my first published novel. It’s going to be amazing once it’s polished up.

In 2012 I lost a cherished friend of 24 years. That was…difficult.

In 2012 I finally realized that trying to keep the peace by endlessly accommodating my ex-husband’s escalating demands was not only futile, but actively counterproductive. It only made him see me as weak, an easy target for bullying. 2012 was the year I stood my ground.

In 2012 hate and violence were brought to my doorstep, presumably to teach me a lesson about standing my ground. If that was their intention, it backfired.

In 2012 I realized there’s not much that scares me anymore.

In 2012 some other important things happened that I’m either not comfortable talking about on my blog, or that I’m not at liberty to post here.

So you can see why it almost slipped past me unnoticed, this small but significant accomplishment.

But yesterday it hit me: I am now a paid writer. It’s not the way I’d always planned, and one unfortunate tradeoff is that my novel has been moved to a back burner as I write informative articles, product descriptions, how-to guides and so on. But people are giving me money to conjure words in my head and write them down, and that is momentous. I can now officially call myself a writer, and not feel like a fraud. I am paying bills with money that I earned writing down words. People, that is one big fat checkmark on my shortlist of life goals.

So farewell, 2012. You were not always kind nor gentle, but I have emerged from your flames a stronger, braver and wiser person. And I have emerged A Writer. For real.

Happy New Year, everyone. Here’s hoping 2013 brings us all a few more granted wishes and a little less of the other stuff.

Categories: books, Family, Fiction, Horses, kids, Life, Love | Tags: | Leave a comment

Tuesday Tales: A Tangled Web

A Tangled Web (Click to read this week’s suspenseful chapter!)

“It does sound wonderful.  Makes me wish I were going to be around to see it.”

Categories: Austin After Dark, Fiction, Gaming, Role-Playing Games, Tuesday Tales, vampires | 2 Comments

Tuesday Tales: Blood And Lies

Blood And Lies (Click to read this week’s chilling chapter. Mature content warning for violence and disturbing imagery)

“Tell me your secrets, Casey, and I will spare you further torment.”

Categories: Austin After Dark, Fiction, Gaming, Role-Playing Games, Tuesday Tales, vampires | 1 Comment

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