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Month: August 2015

The Four Word Press Conference

The Four Word Press Conference

Hamlet ProgramIt’s been a tough week for actor, Benedict Cumberbatch. After a recent performance of Hamlet at London’s Barbican Theatre, star Cumberbatch made an eloquent plea to fans to put away their electronic devices and watch the play. Simple enough? Well, in the days that followed, he found himself in the middle of a fat storm cloud of controversy, one my family followed with keen interest.

You see, at the time we were in London on holiday. In fact, we had in our possession four of the hottest tickets of the summer – Hamlet at the Barbican was the fastest sell out Britain had ever seen ­– and we had tickets for the August 20th performance. A flurry of newspaper articles that week addressed Cumberbatch’s request and the actions the theatre was taking to ensure a tech-free experience for the actors and audience. They were posting reminders on signs outside the Barbican, flashing a reminder gobo on the curtain inside, stationing vigilant ushers throughout and threatening to use tech-jamming devices as a final resort. The mainstream media made it seem like Cumberbatch was quirky and controlling in their stories, and my family joked about purchasing Google goggles to skirt the rules.

Barbican ExteriorFinally the big night arrived. We dressed in our Sunday best and took a cab to the Barbican. The box office was surrounded by hopefuls, people that had camped out for over twelve hours in hopes of purchasing a returned ticket. We snapped pictures of the anti-tech signage that littered the lobby and then made our way to our seats. We were seven rows back from the stage, smack dab in the middle of the row. We watched the audience clamor and settle, most turning off their mobile devices immediately, a few taking quick pictures of the curtain with its glowing reminder and two bold people that only tucked their phones away after being prompted by ushers a handful of times.

Barbican Sandwich BoardMy daughters, seventeen and twelve, were whispering excitedly to one another, the older reminding the younger of the major plot lines when the theater lights flickered. It was time.

To the sounds of a haunting Nat King Cole song, the curtain rose. A single light illuminated a seated Cumberbatch/Hamlet. The old record spun on a gold record player.

For the next three hours we sat mesmerized. The sets were lush, the acting perfect and Cumberbatch more than delivered in the starring role. The entire ensemble was fantastic. Ophelia, played by Sian Brooke, brought me to tears. As her heart broke, the audience sniffed into their tissues. Ciaran Hinds as Claudius was pure brilliance and Kobna Holdbrook-Smith as Laertes was fantastic. We didn’t need cell phones or cameras, this night would stay in our memories forever.

In Act Two, Cumberbatch’s blue eyes sparkled as though he was withholding a secret as he spoke the line, “The play’s the thing.” Goosebumps erupted down my neck and arms as I realized I was in on the secret. I was witness to Cumberbatch’s four word press conference as he addressed the technology controversy. Using Shakespeare’s own words, Cumberbatch delivered his argument. Together, the actors, crew and audience, we created a space where it was safe to dwell in imagination. For three hours we agreed to suspend real life and explore a story, feel the pain of the characters and as a result, bear witness to something greater than the sum of its parts. The play’s the thing, indeed.

Better than any post or tweet, the memories I have of this special night will never fade. Afterward, as we noshed on snacks in a bistro across the street from the Barbican, I listened to my twelve-year old discuss mortality and revenge and love, and it hit me that she had herself fallen in love. No, the object of her adoration wasn’t Mr. Cumberbatch, but with Shakespeare’s words, his play. Four hundred and sixteen years after he wrote Hamlet, he’d made a fan.  What tweet could ever capture the enormity of that life event?

In closing, this special run of Hamlet more than lives up to the hype. But, fret not. If you haven’t the chance to see the play live, it will be broadcast in movie theaters throughout the world in October 2015. If you go, just remember to turn off your phone and experience it fully.

Haunted by Ladybugs

Haunted by Ladybugs

ladybug copySince the blue moon last week, ladybugs have been haunting me. They’ve pitter pattered across my window, clung to my shirt sleeve, and hung onto the rearview mirror of the car.

It’s not the first time I’ve been haunted by ladybugs, though. The first time was after the murder of my friend and co-worker, Sissy.

Sissy worked at the same small company where I was a marketing assistant. Like all people employed by a small company, Sissy and I wore many hats. Our job descriptions changed hourly. Straight out of college with my two degrees, I was willing to do anything, and that’s what I did. I made Costco runs, secured paint color approvals, dropped sample kits at the post office, made client calls and helped create ads.

Sissy was working in the manufacturing end of the business when I started. She was the only woman in the factory, small of stature but big in presence. I liked her immediately. She not only kept up with the production, she pushed the line. She had a positive attitude and cared about the quality of the work.

butterfliesThe company owner noticed her contribution and when Sissy mentioned she’d like to earn her GED and then work towards a college degree, he did all he could to support her. He brought her into the office as the receptionist where the schedule was more predictable than the factory floor. Being in the office, she’d also have the chance to learn the business-side of things, since what she ultimately wanted was to be a business professional.

Sissy and I shared the same small office space. Between phone calls, errands and daily tasks, we became friends. She confided in me her dream to complete her education. She told me of her greatest joy, being a mother to an eight-year old daughter. And she shared the ugliness of her failed marriage, the details of an alcoholic man that was rough around the edges. He made life hard on her as a wife, but hadn’t improved much as an ex. She told me about her little apartment down the road and about a friendly neighbor that helped her keep her car running for free. She called him, “Turtle.”

I need to tell you something here.  I describe myself as the psychic of small things. I can tell you seconds before the phone rings,  who will be on the other end. I can feel a fight a day before it happens and help you to avoid it. I know the time without ever looking at a clock. I predict silly things, not life-saving moments. Yes, admittedly, I had a two-day migraine before the World Trade Center was attacked. I had no life-saving details, though. That day when Sissy said the name, “Turtle,” my arms should’ve broken out in goosebumps at the very least. But, nothing happened.

The Friday before President’s Day weekend, Sissy came to work wearing an adorable dress, red with black polka dots. The dress, her shiny high heels, her darling glasses, well I told her she was cute as a ladybug. The rest of the company noticed Sissy, too. Every vendor and client flirted, every factory worker made up an excuse to come in the office to ask a question, faces blushed pink and studying the tops of their shoes, they snuck peeks at Sissy – their Sissy – all beautiful and professional. When she left work that day she waved goodbye to me through the cut out window in the office wall. I waved back, wishing her a wonderful weekend.

I wish I’d known then. I would’ve followed her to the parking lot, dogged her to grab her daughter and sleep over at my apartment, stay up too late to watch junk TV and nosh on mini-mart snacks. But, I didn’t know. I’m the psychic of small things, remember? And what happened next is something I think about every day. It could never be classified as small.

Monday morning, Sissy was noticeably absent. The office manager was concerned enough to call Sissy’s home a few times, but no one answered. I took over the phones in her absence, but every caller sounded disappointed to hear me on the other end instead of Sissy. I tried to sweeten my voice as I answered the next call. The person sputtered,  “Is my mom there?” It was a little girl.

“Are you looking for Sissy? Is this her daughter?” I asked.

“Yeah, but I think Mom was confused. I don’t have school today and she went to work. Can I talk to her?”

I tried to answer, but the words log-jammed in my throat. The office manager slipped the phone from my hand and spoke in a calm, quiet voice. “Hi, Megan? I’m going to call your dad. He’ll come pick you up soon, okay?”

Her next two calls were to the police and then to Sissy’s ex.

At work the next morning we gathered for our daily sales meeting. The office manager explained about Sissy. She was brutally murdered. Her daughter survived by hiding in a closet. Through sniffles and choking sobs, we talked about Sissy and as we grieved her, the lights in the office dimmed. I stared up at the cheap ceiling fixture above her empty desk and the surface of it was covered with ladybugs. Thousands of them crawled across the fixture and blocked out the fluorescent glow. At first it scared me, but then instead of thinking of my murdered friend, I remembered Sissy that last day in her red dress with black polka dots, beautiful and happy. And I knew she was telling us to remember her that way, not as a victim, but as a woman excited about her future.

Fast-forward twenty years. Not a day’s gone by that I don’t think of my friend Sissy and her daughter the survivor. I always hope that life will put us on a collision course, that I will meet Megan and be able to help her in some way. Maybe she doesn’t need help. She proved that she’s a fighter a long time ago. Anyhow, as the blue moon shone down on Seattle last week, I stood in the light of it and asked the universe, asked God, to use the magic of this night to illuminate my life path. “What am I supposed to do next?” And because I’m a writer, I asked specifically, “What am I supposed to write next?”

daylilies
I’ll remember Sissy that day, happy and hopeful

It’s a no-brainer if you know me. I’m in the throes of drafting book three of my trilogy, but I’ve had another series brewing for the last year. It’s a series of adult mysteries, and the first story would be written in honor of my friend, Sissy. Because I’m a mother and a volunteer fundraiser, I don’t have much time to write. I asked the blue moon to clarify my intentions. And that’s when a ladybug landed on my shoulder. As I always do, I thought of my friend. “Do you want me to write your story?” The ladybug crawled down my arm and flew away.

I took a walk and when I returned to the house, I tried unlocking the front door with my key. But, the key lodged in the front door and wouldn’t turn. As I jiggled and fussed, a ladybug crawled across the door. Impatient, I entered the code into the garage key pad. Once inside, I found the door still wouldn’t unlock. Frustrated, I went outside again and tried to turn the key. It turned easily and the door swung open. Was it all my imagination? No.

I’ve thought about it for a few days and I think Sissy was telling me it was okay to write her story, but to wait. Write the last book in the trilogy first and then write her novel. Her story would be waiting for me to tell later.

Today, as I drove my daughter to her riding lesson, a ladybug crawled across my rearview mirror. It made both of us smile. I miss you, Sissy.