Thursday, June 26, 2014

Planning for December Part I

Artist opportunities, for artists of all kinds . . .

Two Houston churches, Grace Lutheran and St Stephen's Episcopal, are teaming up to sponsor an advent season (the church season before Christmas) art event. Of some kind. We're keeping it somewhat undefined for the moment. We only know we want to engage the themes of advent: hope, anticipation, anxiety, expectation. We want artists of faith and of no faith to explore these themes, hopefully without recycling old images but by bringing new vision.

What's happening now: A workshop/playdate/brainstorming session.

Saturday, July 26
10:00am - 1:00pm
Grace Lutheran Church
2515 Waugh Dr, Houston, Texas 77006
This will be a combination of structured exercises and intentional play. We're planning on doing one of these each month, just to explore what's possible 
Musicians, performers, installation artists, visual artists . . . no medium turned away! 
No commitment is assumed by participating in this workshop. In fact, I'd be happy to have people who just want a creative play day to show up. I won't be asking for commitments until October or early November. 

And if you can't make this one, you're not ruled out---as I say, we plan to have one of these monthly until we make the thing. 

Three is a Facebook event page for this, so if you're on Facebook, feel free to go HERE and ask questions or join up there. If you're not on Facebook, feel free to email me at neilellisorts <at> yahoo dot com. 

Please share this with other artists who might be interested. 

Monday, June 16, 2014

Cary & John Sample Chapter

This blog is usually about my performance work (and I'm much behind in documenting a couple of pieces), but tonight I'm using it for my literary endeavors.

At this moment, my novella, Cary and John is being released. You can order a copy directly from the publisher by click here.

I've also been asked if I could post a sample of the book. So here it is. It alternates between a straight forward narrative---and afternoon between two lifelong friends---and a series of letters written in the early 1970s. Cathy is telling Gloria about a stack of letters their fathers left behind that reveal a romance they never knew existed.

I chose a chapter and a couple of letters about a third of the way in. I hope it whets your appetite for the entire novella.

Chapter 6

"Oh Glory Glory," Cathy said and then said no more. Gloria couldn't see her face and leaned forward, elbows to her knees, the last half of a snicker doodle in her clasped hands.

"Cathy, why don't you come sit down?" Somewhere they learned to never ask a question that would result in a lie. No "what's wrong?" to be answered with "nothing."

"Isn't it funny how different things can be?" Cathy asked, turning. "I mean, all the appearances. You think you know how things are, but they're only appearances."

"We see through a veil. One day we'll see face to face."

Cathy made a face that she corrected quickly. Gloria knew it was either Cathy's dislike for scriptural responses—"trite," she called them—or else Cathy was about to tell a secret. Cathy sat down next to her big shoulder bag on the couch.

"It just becomes clearer after the fact," Cathy said. "It all makes sense, eventually. Mysteries you didn't even know existed get solved."

Gloria considered Cathy's words before speaking. "Do you think things weren't as happy as they appeared that day?"

"Oh, no," Cathy said. "That was such a good day, all of us together. Look at that picture. Uncle Cary and Aunt Phyllis so quiet but so—loyal to each other. Mom and Daddy, cutting up as always." Cathy smiled. "Do you know they were both over sometimes, after their divorce? You know, something for the girls or whatever. They laughed together just like in that picture, right up until the day Daddy dropped over dead."

"Well, that's what I never understood," Gloria said. "They always seemed so happy, got along so well." She finished off her cookie.

"They were," Cathy said. "To a large extent, they were. But, well, with hindsight . . . Cathy began to pick on a button on her blouse. "Well, I guess in retrospect I'd have to say they were more like college roommates who happened to raise a daughter together."

"Oh now, Cathy. What makes you say something like that?"

"My marriage isn't like that," Cathy said, and added before Gloria could say anything, "and neither is yours."

"Every marriage is different, Cathy. Every person is different."

"Of course," Cathy said and waved her hand. "But Gloria—I look at you and Fred and there's—what's the word? You know, not always but you can tell with people. You're not 'just friends' as we used to say in high school."

"Cathy Cat, you're talking in riddles today. We're husband and wife."

"But there's more than just words to it with you. You're attracted to each other." Cathy looked away and said quickly, "I mean, you're lovers."

Gloria blushed and giggled. "Well, yes, but I hope we're not staring wantonly across the room at each other!"

"Oh, nothing so obvious," Cathy said. "But—Oh Gloria, you know what I mean. You're the one who started the game back in high school!"

Gloria's face felt hot, but she couldn't help laughing. Back in those days, when they were high school girls remaining pure and chaste, they played an off-color game, guessing which couples they knew were or were not having sex regularly. It got to where they couldn't look at each other during church services if certain couples sat nearby, or else they'd dissolve into silent, quaking laughter. "Oh Cathy, stop!"

"Don't go getting all bashful about it now. How many times have I heard you talk about the importance of the marriage bed?"

"Well, yes, I do believe it is one of the greater gifts of marriage." Gloria tried to regain her composure.

"I mean, that couples retreat we went to that time?"

"Oh now, Pastor asked Fred and me to lead that session—"

"Because it's obvious you two are doing it!" Both women laughed. "With regularity!"

"Stop it!" Gloria's face was red from the laughter and embarrassment. She pulled herself together briefly and said demurely, "I'm simply a woman who takes her wifely duties seriously." And both women laughed again.

Cathy wiped at her eyes. "I was trying to have a serious conversation somewhere in here."

"Okay," Gloria said and touched her lips. "Serious again."

"All I'm saying is, I don't think our parents had that kind of relationship. They liked each other, even loved each other, but—"

"Oh, Cathy, what's wrong with you? No one likes to think about their parents and sex!"

Cathy smiled but her eyes drifted to the portrait. "I guess not, but it's a part of life."

Gloria rolled her eyes in fun. "As far as I'm concerned, it's enough that they had us. That's all the evidence I need on that subject." Gloria flashed on overhearing her mother speak of a sexless marriage, but pushed it away.

Cathy turned more serious and looked at her purse. "This is going to be harder than I thought."

"What?" Here, Gloria thought, is the heart of the matter.

"Gloria, I've been going through Daddy's things."

"Of course," Gloria said soberly. She knew the weight of the task.

"Daddy left a stack of letters."

February 3, 1971
Dear John,
A month has already passed. Sorry I haven't written. I start letters and then I get interrupted.

Phyllis and Gloria were so glad to see you all come and sad after you left. I wondered how Gloria would be. She's getting involved at school, making friends. I thought she might have moved on. When you left, she said, "I don't think I'll ever have another friend like Cathy."

I'm not sure about camping. I don't have any vacation time yet. I wouldn't be able to leave until after work on a Friday and I'd have to be back Sunday. Is just 2 nights worth it?

It was good to see you at New Year's.

Dear Cary,
You make me crazy with waiting for a letter and then you write so little. Beggars can't be choosers, though. I take what I can get!

Yes, two nights with you is worth it! What are you talking about? Two hours with you is worth it!

I called up to the park. They have a cabin available the second weekend of March. I went ahead and reserved it, put down a deposit. I haven't said anything to Maddie, yet, but if you just can't I'll take her and Cathy up—they don't really like it, but since I already paid for it, they'll go. So save me from a weekend in the woods with two unhappy girls! Arrange it so you can go! Ha!

In fact, tell Phyllis and Gloria to come this far with you. They can stay with Maddie and Cathy and they'll have an all-girls weekend.

Look, I know it's not ideal, but you'll get off work at 5:00, right? Pick up your women and be on the road by 6:00, and you'll be here a little after 9:00. We'll be at the cabin easily by 11:00. So it'll be a little late. We won't have to get up early on Saturday. Or at all! Ha!

Maddie and Cathy have talked a lot about how much fun they had New Year's. I'm convinced we—you and me—had the best time of all.

Your letters are so reserved. I guess I hesitate to get too graphic myself. Is it too much to admit that just thinking about you—about New Year's and going camping—has me very excited right now? I'm so excited it hurts to keep sitting down! Ha!


Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Houston Peace Festival 2014

Breath & Bone/Orts Performance will be performing at the tail end of the Houston Peace Festival this coming Saturday. Follow the link for the schedule of myriad activities and performers. BB/OP will be doing a roving "happening" sort of performance, starting at 6:00pm (it's a performer availability thing---come early, stay late!)

In case the link fails, here's the bare bones:

Saturday, April 26 at 12:30pm - 8:00pm
Friends Meeting House
1318 W 26th St, Houston, Texas 77008

BB/OP will be doing a light, hopefully colorful piece called Seedling Heart. 

Again: Come early, stay late, bring the kids!

Saturday, February 1, 2014

Writing and Performance Work 2013

I made a post like this last year, only a month earlier. Sometimes, timing isn't everything.

Below is something of a CV of my writing and performing work for 2013. So much here was made possible with the help of remarkable colleagues and co-creators. It was a good year.

 Posting a list serves two purposes: it gives you a sense of the work I do. Perhaps something will catch your eye. Perhaps you'd or someone you know would like to commission a work, bring me in for a workshop, or just come see my next offering. Yes, this serves as some sort of marketing. I don't have the marketing gene, so at least there's this.

The second purpose is to have something to show for all my fatigue! Maybe this isn't much, but it was all done around a full time job and a major surgery to boot. I feel pretty good about it all.

There are also things that don't show up because they've not been released into the world. I have a few pieces of writing out there, waiting on some editor's desktop to be accepted or rejected. There is a dance film that I participated in making which is still being edited. This list doesn't show everything I've done in the past year.

But again, it was a good year. Check back in a year for what 2014 held.


PERFORMED Watch How You Watch (or what do you see when you see yourself seeing), a durational performance at Avant Garden, Houston, TX, part of Continuum Performance Art residency January 18, 2013

PERFORMED various roles in Bodily Function Follies, written, directed, and choreographed by Margo Stutts Toombs at FronteraFest, Austin, TX January 23, 2013


PUBLISHED Review for They Who Sound with Leslie Scates and Nicole Bindler, Dance Source Houston February 2, 2013

PUBLISHED  "SHSU Loses Beloved Dance Teacher"  in OutSmart Magazine, March 1, 2013 

PERFORMED Tell Me Where It Hurts, a durational, interactive performance at Avant Garden, Houston, TX, part of Continuum Performance Art residency March 1, 2013

CONCEIVED, DIRECTED, PERFORMED ShadowPlace, a performance installation at the Photobooth on Montrose, under the Breath & Bone/Orts Performance banner. Three performances: March 3, 10, and 17, 2013


PUBLISHED  "Witnessing and Blessing"  in OutSmart Magazine, April 1, 2013

FACILITATED Workshop on Presence and Creativity, Austin Community College, Carnival Ah,  March 4, 2013

PUBLISHED  Adults  in Voices Against Bullying #1, published by Sword and Labrys Productions

PUBLISHED  "The Devil and the Dynamite Duo"  on The Longbox Project, April 30, 2013


PERFORMED "Coloring the Line", a durational performance at The Hilary and Nikki Show, Hardy & Nance Street Studios, Houston, TX May 17, 2013


PUBLISHED  "The 25"  in The Dying Goose Volume 1 Issue 2

CONCEIVED, DIRECTED, PERFORMED in Wringing Out Light: Poems & Prayers at St. Stephen's Episcopal Church, Houston, TX under the Breath & Bone/Orts Performance banner, three performances, July 19-21.


PUBLISHED  "On Liberty, Unity, and Keeping His Cool",  Interview with Bishop Gene Robinson, OutSmart Magazine, September 1, 2013

PUBLISHED  "A Body of Collaborative Work," Interview with Bill T. Jones, OutSmart Magazine, September 1, 2013

PERFORMED Flouring/Flowering, part of Submission, an evening of durational performances produced by Continuum, Continuum Headquarters, September 6, 2013

PERFORMED in Sidewalk Psychic, A short film written and Directed by Kapil Nair and Margo Stutts Toombs, debuted on YouTube September 9, 2013


PUBLISHED  "Batman and Other Reminders of Never Again"  on The Longbox Project, October 12, 2013

PUBLISHED Review of Teresa Chapman's Shifting Spaces, Dance Source Houston, October 24, 2013

PERFORMED role of Leonato in Shakespeare's Much Ado About Nothing, Directed by Kate Pogue, O'Kane Theater, University of Houston-Downtown, October 25 - November 2, 2013 (nine performances)


PUBLISHED  "Art for Art's Sake",  (Hope Stone Kids) in Dance Studio Life, November, 2013 (link is to a large PDF file and takes some time to load.)


PUBLISHED  "Dancing Illusions"  (Pilobolus Dance Theater) in Arts + Culture Texas, December 2013/January 2014

PUBLISHED  "In Memory, In Silence"  in Saint Katherine Review, Volume 3 Numbers 3 & 4.

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Fieldwork in Houston

I'll be facilitating the spring Houston Fieldwork workshops Monday nights, starting on January 27  through March 24, with a showcase at The Barn on Saturday, March 29. Get more info by clicking here

What I want to do in this space tonight is to note why I think Fieldwork is important and maybe the best kept secret in the Houston arts community. 

I'll be honest, my first experience with Fieldwork (in Chicago, while I was still in grad school) didn't thrill me. I didn't immediately take to the process. 

When I moved to Houston, I found that there was a Fieldwork community here. Despite my less than fulfilling experience with it, I gritted my teeth, knowing I needed to meet Houston artists and find my way into a network. 

And that's exactly what Fieldwork did for me. Besides giving me opportunity to make and show work, I made friends a few collaborators. The workshop allows you to become intimately acquainted with other artists work and process and by the end of the first showcase, I had a few people I was anxious to work with. Even after I got to know more folks in the Houston arts community, I still returned to Fieldwork to find new people. The connections I make through Fieldwork are priceless. 

On the way to finding my Houston community, I became a convert to (and eventually a facilitator for) the Fieldwork process. It's a process that is best experienced, but here's the gist of what I love most about it. 

This is not a workshop where you learn how to make art---you come in accepted as an artist and no one is going to teach you or give you advice about your art-making. We don't give advice or direction. 

What we do is we tell the artists what they're communicating via their art. We tell them how the work made us feel, what it reminded us of. I've come to appreciate this much more than the type of feedback that starts with "why don't you . . . " I've come to appreciate knowing what I said to you more than getting suggestions. 

I often say "we don't like things at Fieldwork." What that means is that we don't give feedback about whether we liked something or not. After two weeks, you'll learn quickly that there is a spectrum of aesthetic perspectives in the room, and it's really fairly irrelevant if someone with diametrically opposed tastes likes your work or not. Telling me you liked something doesn't tell me what I told you. It's difficult at first, because we're so accustomed to saying we liked or didn't like something, but as facilitator, I'll gently steer you toward telling the artist how it made you feel, what you heard, saw, understood of the piece. 

As the artist, then, you are able to hear what people are receiving and adjust your message accordingly. Personally, I've had a range of experiences with this. In one case, I was making a piece about my relationship with God. I got feedback about seeing and feeling what it's like to be a child with ADD. That wasn't my intention and I decided I was okay with that interpretation. (And maybe that tells you something about my relationship with God, but I digress.) 

In another situation, I kept getting feedback that told me that I was communicating nothing of my intention and as frustrating as it was, it made me work harder to find the right "vocabulary" for my intention. I was able to move toward my intention rather than blindly believing I was doing what the piece needed. 

So the "learning" aspect of Fieldwork is learning how to give feedback that isn't making judgments or giving directions and learning how to listen to that kind of feedback to clarify the work. 

One more reason to do a Fieldwork workshop: It's a great place to try something new. At it's core, it's a group of mutually supportive artists, we're all there to make art, we all understand and accept that each other is an artist. Within that acceptance and support, you're free to try something new. Are you a dancer who has never spoken on stage, but have this monolog bubbling up? Try it out here. Have you been a painter who wants to try out some performative aspect of your work? This is the place. Have you been thinking about a wild idea that isn't exactly theater, not precisely poetry, maybe it's dance-ish but not entirely . . . mash it up here and see what happens. 

To review: come make friends, come make art, come try something new. 

Contact me on Facebook, via email (neilellisorts <at> yahoo), or in the comments space below if you have questions.