The McManual

Blogging my little heart out in poetry and prose.

My Fringe Report: Aug 4, 2012

Hey ya.

So I am in a show, as you know, and we spent a lot of time together before our opening, so I didn’t see any other shows until 5:30.  I got to see Kafkaesque and Class of ’98. I liked Kafkaesque, although I wonder a little bit why they didn’t just call it The Metamorphosis – I’d love to hear their reasoning. One of their reviews said it was poorly directed, and they referred to the door that is moved a foot or so here and there.  I noticed that a little at first, but since Kafka had such a quirky way of writing, I thought maybe it was a nod to his works like The Castle and The Trial – there is something jarring about the set changes, but Kafka is jarring… anyway, I hope that they are working on a longer version where the apple is thrown at Gregor…

And Class of ’98 was really fun.  I don’t have much to say about it – just that it’s clever, they obviously put a lot of work into it, the actors are all really good and the whole room has a great time.

I feel lucky to have gotten in to Class of ’98 with my Artist pass — there was a huge line, and I think I was only about 5 ahead of the cut off.  It’s so exciting to go to a sold out show…  but if you find yourself in a long line like that, make sure you have a backup plan.  I was planning to scoot over to the Southern if I didn’t get in…

Ok, I have to run. S




My Fringe Report: Aug 3, 2012

I just reviewed two shows on, so I’m not going to review them here, but I will tell you that I saw Chorus: Voices After the Silence  and Animaliceboth at the Playwright Center.  

Actually, I want to talk a little more about Chorus… I gave them a 4 out of 5 for the website, but that doesn’t mean I don’t think that these women and man are not incredible.  I did zone out in part of it though.  I did not zone out because I didn’t like the show, it’s just that at some point it became overwhelming and I literally wasn’t able to pay attention. Of course I looked like I was paying attention, but for at least 30 seconds during one of the readings, I just wasn’t there.  This is not a criticism.  I think that the works were so powerful that I just couldn’t really mentally handle what was being said.  It really is strong stuff.  And I am so in awe of people who can (or must?) deal with their abusive pasts by sharing it in a public forum.  I can see how that could be a healing action.  

I hope that it is healing for the performers to be so frank about what happened to them.  One of the effects of their frankness was that it led me to think about how victims of sexual violence, those other people who “whisper in the ears” of those who do talk about their pain, the victims who keep silent, are not only dealing with their pain, but they are dealing with it alone.  This leads my thinking back to the fact that I work at a sober high school, and that some of our kids have really tough stories.  And that I might not know – almost assuredly do not know – their whole stories.  I guess my point is that I believe work like this helps audience members like me – who haven’t experienced (much) sexual violence first hand to remember that many victims suffer in silence and it’s just another good reason to be a kind and compassionate person as much as possible.

Anyway, it’s 1:15 am, I have a long day ahead of me tomorrow – baby sitting in the morning, then rehearsing a little bit more, then on to the world premiere of our show, Bohemian Rappsody: DeTaming the Shrew.    Oh!  I remembered the last thing I wanted to say about Chorus… I am grateful that their stories and strength will now inform the characters that I will perform tomorrow.  I had an idea that perhaps we artists should consider ourselves an army – yes, an army of artists.  And when we see one troop (troupe!) do well, it encourages, enlightens, and enlivens all of us to do what we do.  (I just got deja vu, so I’m sorry if I have written this before…)  okay – good night before I really start babbling incoherently!!!! xoxo Sheila

Dang it, I should say something about Animalice before I go to sleep, since I did mention them.  I thoroughly enjoyed it.  I hope the actors gain a little more confidence, because the show is really really good, but there are some slight hesitations.  I thought the guy who played the mouse was fantastic, and the dances were really cool and fun to watch.  

Ok, good night for real.



It’s funny how art can mirror life.  

I ended up in a MN Fringe Festival play this year.  It’s called De-Taming the Shrew.  I haven’t been in a play for seven years  – for the last one, I got the choice role of Jane in Fallen Angels, a Noel Coward comedy of manners.  I was the only one who auditioned for my role.

This time, an acquaintance had posted “Looking for a 40 year old woman to help with a play” –(not an exact quote) – – I showed up, and I was in.  Little did I know that I was randomly volunteering for a show that I would relate to so well.

The stories intertwining through this one hour piece are of spiritual beings, middle aged women, and young women just starting out.  The cast is all women, although we have some male characters.  For a couple minutes, I get to play a 20 something douchey guy who takes his wife for granted soon after saying I Do.  I also get to be a middle aged woman struggling with having had a bankruptcy (11 years ago, in my case) and foreclosure (next month, if the short sale falls through – cross your fingers).  I also get to be a spiritual being who sings about how there’s hope, and that you must stand up for your rights and show the world your light.  

I am in awe of the other women on stage – not just the characters, but the actors.  One part of the play, an original song by Kimberly Michaels, made me cry during dress rehearsal last night.  Julie Rappaport, our writer/producer/actor, seems to be a force of nature.  All of the women involved are strong, intelligent and dedicated.  This play is alive with vignettes and interconnected characters and scenes, and there are lots of costume changes and movement.  We wouldn’t be able to do it if every single person wasn’t pulling her weight.  

Now, it’s not that there aren’t any men involved in the production – our wonderful, insightful director, Todd Bruse, is there ushering us through this process, as well as our stage manager, the young, bright Maxwell Mars.  (He wants to be a theater arts teacher.  I definitely see this happening.)  Just as I have tried to articulate pretty much since declaring that my minor in college was Women’s Studies, it’s nothing against men and working with men, but there is something powerful and necessary about women working together and seeing what they can do.  

I think the most powerful message that I have received from Julie and the play is that I have something to contribute.  This is definitely true on stage – I play several different characters and I feel my personal self-confidence rising as they develop.  But I also feel it in my own life.  Through our fundraisers, I have met another woman who is a novelist, a couple of women artists, and a woman who runs her own production company.  It seems like everywhere I turn there are strong, intelligent women doin’ their thing. And that makes me want to do my thing, which right now is acting, but shortly my thing(s) will be running my Kickstarter campaign to publish my novel and going back to work as a high school English teacher.

Just like our main character, Grace, I don’t know exactly what the future holds for me, but I’m going to do my best to experience life fully.  To do that, I will continue to draw strength from the other women in my life, hopefully strengthening them as well.  And that brings me back to art mirroring life, because that’s the show in a nutshell.  Women helping each other to find their own inner strength, and encouraging each other to use our strengths.  

I’m thankful to be in this play, so grateful, I’m ready for it, and I’m loving it.  

Learning the Ropes…

I was driving to rehearsal for the DeTaming of the Shrew when I noticed that there is a sign for BookMobile on my way to the JCC in St. Louis Park, MN.  I made comments to Jay several times that there was something called Bool Mobile, and it really stuck in my head.

I’m glad it did.  For my upcoming Kickstarter campaign, I wanted to figure out a reasonable budget that would be enough without going overboard.  I looked up just to see what they were about, and it turns out that they do print on demand, e-book conversion, and distribution.  I have more to learn about them, but I was pleased with the quote that I got for print books.  The woman who has been answering my emails is nice, too.

Anyway, I’m seeing if I can go there and actually learn more about it from them, see their operation, maybe, and then write about it when I know more.

🙂  Thanks for reading.


Writing My First Press Release

Hi readers,

Well, I wanted you to hear it before anyone else:  I’m going to launch a Kickstarter campaign on August 1st.  The project?  To publish Someotherville.  If you follow this blog, you know that this has been in the works for a while now – I believe I started the novel about four years ago.  In fact, I started it before I knew it was going to be a novel… I just wrote down the idea thinking that it was a good idea, and then it nibbled at my brain and I wrote the whole first draft that first month….

Well, it’s been done for a while now, I’ve gotten feedback, made changes, let it sit, moved on to writing a new novel, and it seems like it’s time to launch Someotherville and get Pennywick Press started.  Of course, if you are a long time reader, you also know that I am not overly loaded with dough.  So I have been trying to save enough to start up, but it hasn’t been working out too well.

My initial plan was to start really small… print a few copies, sell them to my friends, use the money to print more copies to send out to reviewers and then send out letters to bookstores and libraries and so on as the sales grew.  But I was pretty sure that the plan sucked.  When I heard about Kickstarter, I thought it sounded cool, but I wasn’t sure.

When I finally checked out Kickstarter’s site, I started to get excited.  They have a category for Publishing, and there are other novelists who are doing the same thing.  But not, like, thousands of other novelists.  Right now there are four.  I don’t know how many novels have had campaigns that are now over, but I’m sure there have to be a decent number.  Anyway, I feel that it’s terrific that there are other novels on there, but that I won’t be one of a thousand other novelists asking for the same thing.

You will be able to check out my campaign on Kickstarter very soon, as I am planning to launch it on August 1st.

Okay, I was actually working on the campaign page and a press release about it when somehow I got distracted and wrote a blog post.  I guess I should get back to work.  I’ll keep you posted (is that a pun or not?) on new developments in the campaign, and as always, thank you for taking the time to read my blog.  🙂


Why Theater? From Fringe to Center Stage

I have been on the edges of a theatrical life for a long time now.  I am currently in rehearsals for a one-hour show at the Minnesota Fringe Festival, and I have been reflecting on what it is about theater that attracts me so much.

I don’t necessarily want to tell you my whole story, but let me put it into one sentence:  Outgoing young child, unpopular adolescent, awkward teen, more quiet and shy as the days went by (except when I couldn’t stop talking), got pulled into an improv show by well meaning adults, life has never been the same.  I wrote my first theater piece for that improv show, went on to direct 20+ shows at the high school level, became a high school theater arts teacher, morphed into an English teacher who performs once in a while.

Ok, that was two sentences, and it’s not even close to getting to the heart of what I am going to tell you about.  I think that becoming involved in theater, majoring in theater, all of that  has been good and helped me to open up, but more important have been my experiences of theater as an audience member.

The times in my life that I have been the lowest, when I have been thoroughly thrown for a loop by, say, the death of a loved one or by other extreme stresses in life… those have been  the times that  I have found myself seeking out theater.

To go and see a live play, whether the play is “good” or not, there is something special about the energy that is generated by actors.  I have never been disappointed in live theater, because that energy is there.  If there is another source for that energy, I haven’t found it, and frankly, I don’t believe it exists.

One could argue that performing theater, taking on the role of the creator, is the same energy, but I say the experience of the energy is different.  If you’re in the audience, you can just take that energy, and if you are tapped out, you suddenly find yourself in another world.  This world is special, perhaps, because distractions are not allowed.  It’s not okay to check your phone or text anyone, the play needs your complete attention.

Now it might seem obvious to you, but there is something, too, about the alternate universe that is created right before your eyes.  I love that.  I have written before about how we see this phenomenon in movies, but I love to see it happen live.

Now I’m not saying that everyone goes to theater for this soothing elixir of energy and intelligence, but surely some are there for that.  I have talked to many people who credit theater with saving them somehow, or, more often, with unlocking their true natures.  I know for me that there is something there – a source of energy, stamina, and joy.  I will continue to participate in theater, and I take comfort in knowing that no matter how low I may feel, I know where to go to feel better.

Fringe Festival is coming up, and I look forward to being in a play and taking in as much of the other shows as I can, and  I hope you will too.

Pride or Something Like It

I had the honor of volunteering for the MN Coalition United for All Families  this weekend.  It was the weekend of Pride in Minneapolis, and I took some time to reflect on why it is that I am so interested in and adamant about support for marriage equality in Minnesota.

Unfortunately my story is grounded in the fact that when I was in high school and college I was very ignorant of the issues around equality for gay people.  I didn’t even realize that many of the people I knew growing up were gay.  I didn’t have any way to understand it, so I didn’t understand it at all.  And I’m afraid that I made negative comments that I don’t remember now – but that doesn’t make those comments go away.  I am embarrassed to remember that when I was in college and I did already know that one of my best friends was gay, I still didn’t realize that any of the young people I worked with might be gay.  I remember a young woman complaining to me that she had been called a bull dyke, and I’m pretty sure that I told her that those people didn’t know what they were talking about, or somehow I made it sound like, no, you’re not.  When yes, she is.  Well, I don’t know about “bull dyke” but she is most definitely a gay woman.  And I’m afraid that I was of no help.

These  days I don’t make those assumptions, or if I do, I often make them in the other direction, thinking that someone is gay when they are not.  I wish I had always understood, and that I had always been sensitive., but I wasn’t … so now all I can do is work to make sure that I do what I can now.

So I will vote No in November, and I hope you will, too, because whether or not you realize that this vote matters very much to some people you care about, I’d be willing to bet that it does.

Response to Katherine Kersten’s “The faulty case for changing the marriage laws” Star Tribune column 6/3/12

Despite my knowledge that I usually strongly disagree with Katherine Kersten, I made a stab at reading her most recent column, “The faulty case for changing marriage laws”.  Not surprisingly, I find Kersten’s assertions at once mystifying and offensive.   I am going to go through her column point by point to explain my point of view on what she is saying, just to assuage my own anxieties at not responding to this sort of thing.  Just so you know where I’m coming from, I’m a married woman, married to a man.  We have no children, although we tried for 15 years & are still coping with the feelings of loss around infertility. 

In the first paragraph she says that “sometimes you have to take an argument to its logical conclusion to see its flaws”,  so we already know that she is going to be positing a slippery slope argument – a type of argument that the rhetoric books cite as a faulty argument, by the way, but that’s what we can look forward to.  She doesn’t disappoint. 

Then she “guesses” that if there was a poll about whether we could redefine marriage as “temporary” or “three people or more” or “between siblings in a nonsexual relationship” that 95% of Minnesotans would be against it. 

Parroting some of the arguments that some people make for gay marriage, she fake-defends those three possibilities – the arguments she chooses are that “such marriages don’t hurt anyone else’s marriage”, the argument that “isn’t love what it’s all about”, and finally, “people bound by affection deserve the benefits of marriage – and suffer stigma if they are withheld.”

What Kersten is doing here is watering down the arguments to a shallow gloss, and in fact, she sidesteps many of the major harms of denying same sex marriage by saying that gay couples “suffer stigma” if they are not allowed to marry.  Suffering stigma is the least of the problem.  Stigma sucks, sure, but I’m more concerned about things like a gay man not being allowed into his partner’s hospital room while his partner is in a coma, or about a gay mother being denied custody of her child if her partner, the birth mother, died in an accident. Or gay partners not being next of kin for financial concerns and so on.

These are very real concerns and they go far beyond some community member’s disdain of their choices.  Disdain we can handle.  Go ahead and feel that gays are in the wrong, and that those aren’t your choices, and that you don’t like it.  But that’s as far as your influence over someone else’s marriage should go.

The next paragraph goes on to say that it’s not fantastical that some people might want to have temporary or polygamous or intrafamily marriages.  No, she’s right, that’s not a fantasy.  I have never heard of a “temporary” marriage – unless you count that you can legally divorce, but I certainly know people who think that a polygamous marriage should be allowed.  As far as brother and sister marrying, that one’s new to me, too, but I’m sure that some siblings somewhere would like the option.  It doesn’t matter.  Those are separate questions.  Honoring gay marriage is about honoring gay marriage, and fears about what may follow or what may be pursued are not a reason to not honor gay marriage.  If those questions come up in a debate later, then we debate it later. 

Then Kersten goes on to say that “marriage has a unique public purpose” and with very sweeping statements, she claims that “always and everywhere” and “cross the globe and through the millennia”  marriage has had the same purpose, and that is to “connect men with their children and the mother who bore them, so that every child has a loving, committed mother and father.”  Well.  That’s quite a rewrite of all of human history, which I don’t believe has been as child-centered as she is making out here.  One could certainly point to the reality that there hasn’t always been marriage for everyone in every country, and that for a good long while the function of marriage was security and transfer of wealth, but that would be cynical.  No, it’s always been about the children. Yeah. 

She then slips in “Though the best environment of raising children is a married mother and father” it’s hard to have a good marriage.  Which it is. But my problem with this is her ‘given’ is false.  Sure a married mother and father may provide a great environment for a child, but then again, they may not.  If my friend asks me if I think she’s ready to be a mother, I don’t say, “sure you’re married to a man, so you’re good to go.”  There’s a little more to it.  And I know a lot of people who have been raised by same sex couples and they’re doing great.  Doesn’t mean same sex couples are all perfect and automatically provide the best environment – totally depends on the people involved and lots of other factors, too. 

Finally, she gets to the most overtly offensive part of her column, saying that it’s wrong to compare opposition to same sex marriage to the historical opposition to interracial marriages.  She says “Jim Crow-era laws did not challenge the nature or meaning of marriage.”  Well, except the argument that it was unnatural to marry outside of your race, I guess.  Frankly, I’m surprised that Kersten isn’t among the 20% of Americans who still think interracial marriage should be illegal.  Instead, she says that people who were against interracial marriage were frustrating the natural good of marriage by keeping black and white couples — oops, misquote, she specifies “black and white men and women” — apart to perpetuate a racist legal order.  

She gets close to saying something that I might agree with, but then she takes a turn.  She acknowledges the racist legal order *presumably a thing of the past if you read her other columns* but doesn’t acknowledge a homophobic legal order.  Okay then.  Instead of making the connection that I think would have been sound, she instead changes tacks and switches over to an argument about whether a union can produce children.

She says that because ‘unisex’ couples can’t produce children, their relationship is more like a friendship. 

Now, I stated earlier that my husband and I can’t have kids.  According to Kersten, that eliminates the “logical necessity” for us to have a “permanent and sexually exclusive” relationship.  Using her slippery slope argument, should I be afraid that the state will step in and declare our marriage null and void because our union is illogical? 

I don’t fear that, because no one cares if we have kids or not.  Well, we care, and our families care, but the state doesn’t and shouldn’t care.  In fact, we’re probably saving them money, but that’s a whole other discussion. My point is, the crux of her argument is that if you can’t have kids of your own, you shouldn’t be able to get married.  Some of us heterosexuals slip through the cracks and get married without procreating, but they ignore us.

She then posits another slippery slope argument (she lives in a hilly, icy world) that if marital norms are not enforced, men and women will see fewer intrinsic reasons to marry.  And this leads to the suffering of the children.  And this leads to the larger role that the government will be compelled to play in the functions of the family.  And if you believe a kid should have a mom and a dad you will lose your job.  And if you give a mouse a cookie, he’ll want a glass of milk. Sheesh.

This given, the idea that marriage is strictly for procreation and child rearing, is the difference upon which she is basing her main argument.  I say you can’t have it both ways.  If you can’t call a – how she says – “nonmarital, affection-based union” the same as traditional marital union, and the only difference is that you can’t biologically have your own children and that’s what makes it non-marital, then it follows that my own marriage is nonmarital, and that it’s only affection based.  I reject that.

So our societal discrimination against homosexuals, which she sugar coats as “distinguishing among people” using “criteria” that “serve(s) a legitimate public purpose” is right, according to Kersten. 

Typically I might dismiss her argument as homophobic and ignore it.  She is certainly entitled to think what she thinks, but what worries me is that this column in the Strib could influence voters in November to vote for the Same Sex Marriage Amendment, which I think would be a shame.  I hope that people will instead use this column as a springboard to more discussion about the amendment before it comes up for a vote.  Obviously you know how I am going to vote, and I hope that you will join me in rejecting the idea that marriage is only for makin’ babies and raising them – as usual, life is more complex than that, and fears of slippery slopes are not a good reason to not stand our ground.



I went to a tra…

I went to a training about brain development on Friday, and it has had a huge impact on me.  I think there are three main things that I took away from the training:

1 – When I am depressed, I can do something for myself by using positive thoughts to create new neural pathways.

2 – I am doing the right thing by taking 5-HTP, B12 and SAM-e.

3 – I need to get more sleep to help myself be mentally healthy.

4- (bonus!) I like the idea that everything I do today – the things I eat, the movements of my body, and the thoughts I think, are all laying the tracks for who I will be and how I will feel six months from now.

For some reason, the idea that what I do and eat and think will have a six month effect seems a lot more appealing to me than thinking that there will be a huge change right away.

Falling Into A Poem

Falling into a Poem

Tripping along
over your words
accents to ride
like waves
crashing over ideas

There are so many grains of sand
indistinguishable on the beach
until you bend, scoop, and pick,
isolate one to look at closely
there may be a microscopic statue
smaller than the needle of an eye

I wheedle I need to needle
this idea through
my noodle beyond a doodle
one accent syllable, one non
dactyl or anabastic bliss
lending an outline to the guts of the operation

what could be better than this

it all rests upon one reality:
look close and there is Alice;
whom you’d thought you’d inhaled.

by Sheila Feb. 18, 2009
edited Nov 2, 2011

%d bloggers like this: