Thursday, May 26, 2011

Being Normal Matters Far Less Than Being Courageous

Those of us tapped by the entrepreneurial spirit have a series of challenges facing us. Not the least of these is how to finance the dream project, the company, the idea. Kickstarter does everyone a service providing not only initial investment opportunities (thanks to the contributions of people around the world) as well as access to a series of entrepreneurs' creativity and invention.

Ben Bisbee is such an innovator.

His book, The Underground Flower, is smartly written by Ben and beautifully illustrated by artist Carolyn Hayes. And while it appears to be a book for children, and is titled that way, this book is brought to life by the reader, regardless of age whether read aloud or visually.

The Underground Flower tells the story of a little girl who planted a flower that, let's just say, wouldn't win any horticultural prizes. It's shaped differently. Its roots grow above soil. And underground, a gopher, a worm, an ant, and a centipede behave as gossipy, nosy creatures. They attempt to justify the flower's existence and rationalize it. Because this is their domain.

In the grasses above, things are no better for this unique flower, as the colorful blooms are afraid and suspicious of and confused by it. The flower is not welcomed into either of these earthen communities.

Planted by a wise child (the flower's only friend and supporter), there is no love shown by this young gardener's mother. A protective parent, to be sure, the mother wants to weed the flower and clear space in the yard. The flower is different and looks nothing like the plants known to brighten a room and be worthy of bridal bouquets. The little girl knows that even though this flower looks different, it is worthy of her care and attention.

Ben's inspiration for this important story of community, acceptance, love, and the damage of exclusion stems from his own life. Growing up with the challenges of a young person, and those were bolstered by hyperactivity, poverty, and being gay, Ben never felt accepted or embraced by people surrounding him. We can all empathize with that.

The real challenge emerges when how we express ourselves - for whatever reason - doesn't communicate who we are and what we are. We are all flowers. Regardless of texture, leaf shape, color, scent and height, we may have different depictions. And we are flowers. Full stop.

No one wants to be average or labeled as anything other than who he/she is. "Normal" is nothing bad, to be sure. And the little girl who planted the underground flower showed courage, which is so much more important.

Should you believe in what Ben's book is providing - underscored by humor, quirk, and sweetness - contribute to his Kickstarter project.

With Memorial Day happening soon, this beautiful week is chance to be inspired by people who showed courage and people who are doing that today. 

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Selling my Soul Will be Exciting and Productive

Thursday, May 12 will be a life-changing day for me.

I'm attending Selling Your Soul, hosted and led by the incomparable Danielle LaPorte and Marie Forleo.

And these brilliant gals have posed the following questions. My answers are here. Make fun if you like. Just know that the answers are genuine.

1) Say your "official" job title out loud. Three times. Deep Breath. How does it make you feel? 
"Founder" is my ideal job title and it makes me feel accomplished and like my best self.

2) How much money would you like to make, annually? 
It matters not to me specifically and the lower six figures would enable me to do the things of which I dream.

3) What's on your "stop-doing" list? 
Sell products in which I don't believe.

4) What do people thank you for, consistently?
Being supportive, describing them and what they do to others, writing things.

5) So...for real, now. What would you like to do with your life and career? {Money is no object. Dream.}
Promote undiscovered talents, retailers, artists, and creators. 
Be a backup singer. And write lyrics for a few songs.
Do voice over work.
Write something that will change other people's lives.

That's what's on my mind this week. I'm in Boston for a few days soon and I expect to find someone and something else that's manufacturing drama effectively and beautifully.

Make this week about discovering your dreams and taking a coupla steps to bring those to life.

Wednesday, May 04, 2011

"MOCK Your World" Rocks the World

Full disclosure: my brother and I grew up surrounded by music. Mahalia Jackson, Beethoven, Peter Paul & Mary, the Beatles, Aretha Franklin, Mozart, Gilbert & Sullivan, Crystal Gayle, Rogers & Hammerstein, Bob Dylan, Bach, and more.

While we eventually found our own favorite artists - The Game, Melody Gardot, Rusted Root, Teddy Pendergrass, Victor Wooten, Guns 'N' Roses, Robin Thicke, and so many more - there's something about musical theatre that always makes me feel rooted in history and sublimely entertained.

Andrew Byrne's "MOCK Your World" combines like no other stagecraft the magic of musical theatre, the passion for lyrics being as strong as belief in the notes being sung, and laugh your ass off humor. Each time I've seen "MOCK Your World" I wish that Comedy Central would create a spot for a show that I would produce entitled "TOYN" aka "The Ones You Need," starring a variety of people (the cast changes every quarter) including Rachel Maddow, Cory Booker, Louis C.K., Quincy Jones, and the only person who would appear in every episode is Andrew Byrne. This program would follow "The Daily Show"  and "The Colbert Report."

Full disclosure, Part II: Andrew Byrne is my voice teacher and coach. And it takes a real talent to help me go from operatic singing to the soulful twang of R&B. Andrew's skills go well beyond the studio as he is an accomplished composer, a strong pianist, a truly skilled vocalist, and one of Backstage Magazine's Favorite Vocal Coaches in New York City. You can learn more about what he does and how he works at his website.

Now to "MOCK Your World," which is in production this spring beginning on 16 May through the 21st (full details are below this post). "MOCK Your World" Spring 2011 Performances  Andrew has composed several songs and lyricized some classics - when you think of The Pirates of Penzance's classic "I am the Very Model of a Modern Major General," you'll never hear it the same way (or with such a smile) once you've experienced one of the songs where Lisa Rothauser is the lead vocalist. 

Among the other extremely talented actor-singers are Marya Grandy, Bart Shatto, and Robby Sharpe, and this trio brings to life the sometimes unpleasant experience on public transit (specifically the L train). Their timing, facial expressions, and gestures are evidence of people who know what they're doing and can do it in unexpected ways.

So many things are addressed - and satirized - onstage at "MOCK Your World:" comedy, politics, summer stock theatre, auditions, relationships, family. And Andrew and the crew bring to life key elements of movies such as "The Devil Wears Prada" and "Brokeback Mountain with joy, panache, and clever comedy that's just enough wink wink, nudge nudge.

Whatever you're looking forward to over the next couple of weeks, be sure to set aside time and get tickets for "MOCK Your World."

"MOCK Your World" - May 16 (7pm), May 19 (7pm), May 21 (6pm)
Rockwood Music Hall
196 Allen Street, between Houston and Stanton
Starring Andrew Byrne, Lisa Rothauser, Marya Grandy, Bart Shatto, and Robby Sharpe
Complimentary admission, two drink minimum
Doors open half hour before curtain
Make reservations via

Discover theatre and music done brilliantly and unexpectedly. Recognize and support the great people appearing at venues other than the Broadway stages.