Thursday, March 31, 2011



I am directing Stuart Little for the Davidson Community Players Connie Company.  It plays April 2,9 at 10am; 1pm, April 3,10 at 1pm; 4pm and April 8 at 7pm.  Tickets are only $7.  Several shows are sold out, so it is advised that you make a reservation.  It is such a fun 60 minute show with 32 actors in a 1945 conceptualized Stuart Little.  
Call:  704-892-7953
See you at the Theatre!!!

Life Stories Class Eight

Every week I am energized working with my 'Life Stories' students....every week uncovers innovative talents hidden within each as they courageously step forward to tell their to the suggestions of the class...and to my direction...One student said she had been practicing in front of a mirror so she could 'show' the emotion of her work.  I asked her to put her paper down and tell me the story...and then she came alive...her characters were real and in the room with she changed from a teenage girl wanting an education to the father who wouldn't allow her to go to school.  Afterwards, she knew that she didn't need a mirror to find the 'heart' of the story...she only needed to tell what was in her heart.

Willie continues to journal the process so beautifully and true.  While there are only 3 more scheduled sessions, I will be adding more rehearsals for this ever so important work.
Thank you Willie

The Memory Chair (cont’d)
Wednesday, March 30, 2011
This is the ninth week of Life Stories class, and the remaining rungs on the down side of our ladder are much nearer the floor.

I mentioned change had joined our group—it now shapes our weekly agenda, weaving in and out among the familiar exercises our bodies and minds have grown to expect. And presently, we’ve given the Bard, Shakespeare, a respite from fracturing his masterful list of insults. The time has come for us to step out from under the cover of his clever mind and find the treasure-trove of uniqueness in each other.

Wrenn asked that we take the prompt of My Life Story is…, and fill in the blanks, making a short statement of defining ourselves—this will be a lead-in for the production of our play, titled: Life Stories, scheduled for May 1, 2011.

Improvisation time followed. From the list of Life Stories Outline Draft, Wrenn chose five skits to be rehearsed; only one was a repeat, War Times; however, two new contributors joined in, making it a five member group endeavor, and greatly intensifying the drama of the scene. Barbara’s anecdote revealed a tale of want in New Shoes; Don’s monologue spoke of Real Men; and with Jane’s story, Who is that Lady?, the inspiration came from an afternoon’s visit with her mother. The last new performance belonged to Dave, and was titled, The Garden.

And all the while, as each memoir exposes the bones of its story, Wrenn goes into action: glasses off, hands waving, and stopping the scene with, yep—change. She takes out words, adds other words, directs a different emotion, suggests a new stage placement—and gently, but surely…in the end, molds the scene to her liking.
We have three classes left to determine how to represent our stories in their best showing; only three short ‘takes’ before the final curtain opens to the immediate present where suddenly—our past becomes our future!

Elizabeth Towles (Willie)

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Life StoriesDesigning Our Production

A collaborative group flexible with their words..their stories..willing to try anything....all filled with the courage to explore new leap and leap and fly!  Leading and being led by this amazing group of people is a new chapter of fulfilling my life life story.

The Memory Chair (cont’d)

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

This is week eight of Life Stories class…and the climb down the other side seems to be moving faster than the climb up the first half of our journey’s ladder.

Change has become the norm: the chairs are once again spread out against the walls, pulling in slightly at the corners to make a ¾ circle. Wrenn mixes it up in the ‘warm-up’ activities with a face, mouth, and tongue exercise, saying this will prepare us for what’s ahead. After we stretch everything above the neck: making our faces appear as though looking in one of those ‘funny’ mirrors at a circus, drawing up sounds from our throats that would have us being picked up by the local authority if witnessed; and uttering vocal phrases that defy translation; she at last says our faces, tongues, and throats are loosened enough to go forward with today’s program.

Today, we will speak our stories into existence.

We are partnered in groups; each group has to review and work up an improvisational presentation for a story already selected by Wrenn.

Six skits are showcased: four of the stories being repeat improvisations; only this time around, the action more fully developed. The first new story involves Mardell’s depiction of her moment in the limelight—literally—one of those ‘oops, there goes the pants’ scene that stays with you for life! The last interpretation, a stand-out performance belonging to Don, Hess, and Ted; a trilogy on dealing with the serious complications of war times: lives changed forever…or the final loss—death of loved ones.

The assignment for next week centers on developing interesting skits, and given a time limit of about an hour of performance time, we are feverously scrambling to make a playbill that keeps the audience glued to their seats and waiting breathlessly for the next scene.

And of course, each performer, just before stage entry, will get that all time, grand edict of show business: Break a Leg!

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Life Stories Class Seven

The students in the class grow closer with every session.  The last group of stories today and next week we start work on editing, rewriting and rehearsing the stories....We have the bones...the foundation...onward to adding the layers of definition, detail and wonder!

The Memory Chair (cont’d)

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

This is week seven of Life Stories class and we have now gone beyond the apex of the scheduled plan.

The chairs remain in the close circle of last week’s arrangement, and as Wrenn opens the class with our ‘coming alive,’ maneuvers, we respond with familiarity. We quickly follow her lead when she makes a transition and takes us into another activity—well, perhaps not all that quickly! For instance, we were told to call out a number, being we were fourteen count (with Wrenn), and one was supposed to speak a number spontaneously, but never two people in unison; it was supposed to be, 1, 2, 3, etc. It took us some time to count impromptu; and in sequence without the sound of that second voice riding the same number. An exercise in preciseness, hearing…and paying attention!

We usually sing a song and I try to sit by Ted whenever possible; I enjoy his masterful melodic tones resounding in my ears.

Story time came next, and like last week, we read them fully and out loud again; most writing pieces centered on grown children, grandchildren, and close relatives. Christine ‘talked’ her story, and all eyes were on her, following her soft voice as she went about her narration. Ted chose to read his assignment; the message was on the accountability in living one’s life. There was much discussion between the stories, a spoken word or a phrase that opened the flood gates on our thoughts….

Lynnsy was the final participant; she sang her anecdote: You Gotta Have Heart! A winner—we all have a lotta’ heart!

The next topic consisted of handouts of a summary of all stories turned in for six weeks; we had to designate the genre of each story. From this, the assignment for next week is to choose three stories from our six weekly assignments that show improvisational possibilities.

Time to act-up is just ahead!

Lynnsy had one final surprise; she raised her left sleeve to reveal none other than a kaleidoscope of color, an abstract tattoo in a Picasso styling that dazzled the eyes. The painting ran from her wrist all the way up to her shoulder. I had told Sandy earlier that when I looked over at Lynnsy, I had to smile…she struck me as having a whimsical soul—the tattoo was a nice fit!

Elizabeth Towles (Willie)

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Sixth Life Stories Class

Our class has formed a very strong bond.  They are already fearing the end of the program and talking of ways to keep it going....and we  haven't even performed on stage in front of an audience which is when the stage bug really bites!   Yesterdays class was filled with emotional stories of lives...laughter and tears... smiles and deep sighs...holding of hands and hearts.  We have created an ensemble of writers,  And so Willie's journal of class six.

The Memory Chair (cont’d)

Wednesday March 9, 2011

This is the sixth week of Life Stories classes; we are mid-way in our twelve week schedule.

And all has changed!

The first clue came with stepping into the meeting room; the chairs no longer sit next to the walls, they sit close, in a circle, in the middle of the room; and when doing the body wake-up routine, and the long breath in—and out, it was as though we had turned a corner in getting to know each other.

For instance: when Dave read his story about his wife and dealing with the life-threatening disease of Cancer, it seemed so natural and easy a thing for me to grab hold of his hand while he spoke of that heart-wrenching period of their lives. We were all transported to that time, living it with him though his words…and seeing him with new eyes. We have climbed that wall of separateness and found a sense of unity.

Another shift today: stories were read out loud and fully, and although Christine and Ted chose to tell their stories, it was another subtle change, adding a depth of personal interconnecting.

Ted spoke of having a blessed life, so normal in every way, wonderful in the fact of no great tragedies, no problems that defied solving, and a marriage still solid and steady; yet this is in itself a miracle, and normal doesn’t even begin to fit the fine essence of his life.

Today was like a meeting around a large, round kitchen table, we shared our stories in ‘The Memory Chair,’ and smiles, laughs, and grins rode faces time, and time again. We settled in our new bonding like long time friends…family!

Fate was among us today…waiting for the right time to tell a story. And the story was authored by Lynnsy who wrote a tribute to each of us, also to Wrenn, our director. It was the right time, a wonderful choice of words, and the best possible ending to this morning’s Life Stories class.

Elizabeth (Willie)

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Class Five

Every week my students discover new things about themselves while listening to other students stories...oftimes many discussions follow - such as this week.  Each week I choose a story from the previous week to use as an example of 'ways to tell one's story'.  I use the words of the story and create a scene (eight to ten lines) between two people and then the ending of the scene is improvised by the actors. This week it was Betty's important story to share with not only the class but an audience.   In her story, she wrote of being a member of the NAACP in college and after the sit-ins in Greensboro she joined a group to protest the 'white's only' lunch counter in a local department story in Concord.  People threw rocks at the protesters as they entered the store and as she sat at the lunch counter a white man yelled 'Hey there's a white nigger.  I could almost sit down beside you'...She wrote that all of her friends looked at her in scorn and when she returned to school, she was not allowed to march anymore and given office work for the NAACP.  After the scene she said she felt caught in the middle of two kinds of prejudice.  

There was much discussion between Betty and the newly enlightened students.  Afterwards, we discussed the elements of a good story and the importance of its impact on the audience.    One of my students brought me a vase of daffodils and told me I was one of the best teachers she'd ever had and another student told me she'd re-arranged all her post cancer doctor appointments so she wouldn't miss any of our classes.  I was quite moved by these words of my students and new friends.   My life's mission continues to grow!

And now the journal entry from  Wonderful Willie.

The Memory Chair (cont’d)

Wednesday March 2, 2011

This is the fifth week of Life Stories class.

It began in much the same manner as the weeks before: with getting our bodies moving and into mode, then engaging our minds by way of Shakespeare with his lofty words…bringing laughter.

And too, improvisational skits showcased memories: Dave’s story of A Summer Romance; and Betty’s story of the tumultuous years of the 60s and racial protest.

Also, like usual, there were designated groups to read this week’s assignment stories and choose one for a skit: Carolyn’s arrival at the airport in complete disarray; Dave’s tale of a banner of white (bathroom tissue) trailing from his shoe as he left an important meeting; Sandy’s story of being a new lady in town and showing up with eyeliner on her lips instead of lipstick; and Jane’s memory of going to a meeting and being sighted with her skirt tucked inside her pantyhose.

Laughter often rang out. However, there was another element in the room, an undercurrent of inward thinking; Betty’s story of racial protest sat in one of the empty chairs. It served to remind us that a need remained ever present to embrace each other in total equality. I suspect many of us travelled a circuitous route to reach the point of our present day lives; and behind our outward visual image, there lies many hills and low, low valleys in this journey called Life. Although these experiences don’t ride our faces, they dwell at the back of our minds, triggered now and then by certain references.

Wrenn gave us another challenge: to write a sentence using: It was 8:46 A. M. on Sept.11, 2001 and I was…, and then to write a closing sentence for the same prompt. The second option was to write an opening sentence for the words: And I couldn’t stop laughing. This first endeavor caused another empty chair to be occupied: Sept. 11, 2001.

There was total silence in the room, heads bent down, pens raced across the paper from fingers eager to put in print that indelible day of uncertainty. In due time, each of us read our words about that day, often with impromptu comments from classmates that further took us back into that horrendous morning. A somber mood subdued the room…Ted’s words spoke an infinite truth: “…What he was hearing seemed a uniting thread that our world had changed on that day!"

Elizabeth Towles (Willie)