Grief Dialogues

Life Without Art Is Like A Room Without Windows

Last night I slept in a windowless room and shortened my life by at least a few hours.  After six months living in the Costa Rican jungle with only one sojourn back to the States for a trip to New York, I had become accustomed to clear air.  I forgot how precious fresh air could be. Until, of course, I found myself in a hotel room with windows that do not open, not even a crack.  The manufactured air circulated on and off for hours causing my sleep to be interrupted either by sound or by lack of oxygen.

As I grow older I realize the importance of clean air for my body, mind, and spirit. To me, art is a breath of fresh air and the act of creating art is similar to using my lungs and heart, working along side my brain, to process a healthy flow of creative ideas — some more artistic than others.

On June 8th, my co-host Halle Williams and I launch the Out of Grief Comes Art Podcast. For twenty-five minutes each week, Halle and I will talk with artists of all forms whose creative process restores a sense of well-being, a breath of fresh air, as they sort through their grief.

We already conducted several of these interviews. It is clear from these artist discussions that art (whatever form it might take) enables us to tell our own grief story and to process emotions inherent in loss and grief. It also gives permission for others to share their stories.

I’ve seen over and over again how creating art out of our anguish and loss can be profoundly cathartic. It reinforces our resiliency whether we share our creation or not. I’ve also seen how many artists use their personal experiences of sorrow and adversity to create some of their greatest work. I’d like to think that my work falls into this category.

About six years ago I experienced three deaths in one year. Although I was more than willing to share my stories of those losses, I found that no one wanted to hear them. It was as if death was contagious. So I channeled my grief into writing a play. My early love of theatre allowed me to pivot easily to playwriting. I was in the process of drafting Over My Dead Body, originally titled Hospice, when I was stuck on how to work through a particular scene. To overcome this block, I wrote a separate scene between the two sisters in the play, a scene that was never meant to be in the original script. I showed this ten minute script to a couple theatre friends of mine who encouraged me to submit it to various short play festivals. Surprisingly it won many of those festivals and the show was performed frequently across the U.S., most notably in Los Angeles where it enjoyed a six-week run at the Group Rep Theater in North Hollywood.

I found whenever I attended a performance that audience members voluntarily shared with me their own stories of grief and loss. I soon realized that the cathartic and healing power was not in my words but rather in the opportunity my words gave to others. I wanted to bring more stories (more plays) to audiences allowing for even more opportunity for them to see themselves in the performances.
I believe all our stories are valid but we are particularly touched by stories that resemble our own. I also realized that my goal as an artist was to help transform cultural attitudes around dying, grieving, and living.
So I reached out to other playwrights to assemble an evening of short plays depicting various scenarios of dying, death, and/or grief. A Grief Dialogues was born. Out of Grief Comes Art.

If you would like to share your creative story from grief, please fill out the form on our podcast page.

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