Beyond a Travel Review: Edinburgh

In addition to seeing 25+ shows, 30 scenes from Transmission, plus networking/marketing/last minute revisions for said show, I did manage to do A LOT of sightseeing in Edinburgh.

My solo tourist came out and couldn’t be stopped. Even when my feet hurt at the end of the day or I was tired and hungry, I found a way to go see or experience something else.

But alas, much like when I went to England for my semester abroad, I realized that I will still have to come back to Scotland. There’s so much more to see outside of Edinburgh and even still within that old, literary city.

Here are my highlights:

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Book Lover’s Tour

I was buzzing with excitement and caffeine when I ran out of the hostel for this tour–my first official tourist activity! It lived up to the hype. We walked through Old Town, around Southbridge and the University of Edinburgh mostly, because that’s where a lot of Edinburgh’s literati spent their time. Why? It has been the cheaper area where they could afford to live and work.

I loved seeing where Sir Arthur Conan Doyle went to his medical lectures, the bar where he and Robert Louis Stevenson hung out, the place where RLS met his model for Long John Silver from Treasure Island, and so many more places of interest for these and the two main literary influences from Scotland: Sir Walter Scott and Robert Burns.

Our guide also pointed out a few of the notable Harry Potter spots. I went back and found them all on my own, in a spread out, unofficial tour of my own making. I did have coffee at the Elephant Cafe one morning, but hated the over-crowded and tourist-y feel. My brunch at Spoons, the place where Rowling wrote the first few chapters of Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone, put me much more in tune with my own muse.

One night when I felt lonely, wandering the streets alone while crowds pushed past to find the next Fringe party, I did cheer myself up by finding Rowling’s handprints by City Hall.

Again, I didn’t make it to all the famous spots–like the house where RLS was born, or the Arthur Conan Doyle Society–but it’s worth going back. What other cities have monuments to authors so big and tall as the Sir Walter Scott monument? Not many.

Finally, an unofficial new spot on my writer’s tour was The Brass Monkey. Though it’s a pub, I never had a chance to grab a drink there. I did push through the crowds on my first Saturday there to inquire for a postcard my best friend had left me. The bartenders smiled and retrieved it for me. Letters are still magical.

Edinburgh Castle and Stirling Castle

The first I saw at the beginning of my trip on my own. The second, Stirling Castle, I saw with a crew of my Transmission friends at the end of our Highland tour. Continue reading

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A Threshold Year, in Review

There’s no one way to categorize or describe my 26th year. Some big things went as planned, others threw me for a complete loop.

Looking back, it went by so fast…

It feels like the culmination of lots of hard work–as a few big projects came to fruition but also, to a close. A beginning and ending at once.

And since it also marked four years since I graduated from Rice and the beginning of my fifth year in Canada, it feels like my “graduation” into the real world. If there ever is such a thing.

  • Traveled to Montreal with my sister at the beginning of the year AND met up with her in her hometown at the end of the year.
  • Survived and thrived through the transition into a full-time sales role
    • Won 6 months straight in an office, instead of cubicle land
    • Made my sales target for the first time, on the first try!
  • Traveled to Edinburgh’s 2017 Festival Fringe for the premiere of Transmission, the culmination of 3 years of labor on my part
  • Saw 25+ shows in addition to Transmission’s 30 separate scenes at said festival

Those were some of the wins. Losses included friends, family, loved ones, plus a sense of belonging in the country of my birth.

It wasn’t a dumpster fire or the best year of my life. It was simply a threshold.

The best part?

I don’t feel like I’m waiting on what happens next. I’m meditating on where I want to be and what I want to make of my future.


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Beyond a Theatre Review: 25+ Edinburgh Fringe shows 2017

Technically, the Edinburgh Fringe was my 5th or 6th fringe festival.

My high school boyfriend took me to my first–the 2008 or 2009 FronteraFest in Austin–back before I ever thought about writing for the stage.

I’d never gotten into the Fringe spirit before. In Toronto, I go, I see a few shows, but I always feel out of place. Other friends wait for Fringe like it’s Christmas and I almost dreaded it.

Edinburgh was different.

Maybe it was the “participant” badge around my neck, the flyers for my show Transmission ready to be passed out, or the fact that I’d been waiting for this moment for THREE YEARS, but now I get it.

Listed below, in no particular order, are quick reviews of the 27 shows I saw:

  • Pixel Dust

The description did not appeal to me–one-woman show depicting a teenage girl’s struggles with her identity online–but the fact that it was a FuturePlay show got me in the door. Amazing physical acting coupled with projections that brought out the poetry of the story made this one of my absolute favorite shows of the Fringe.

  • The Poltergeist of Cockburn Lane

Wanted to fall asleep during this show, but couldn’t stop watching the boring train wreck. This light opera had fantastic source material–an actual court case where a ghost’s testimony was called–but failed to capitalize on it. A romance without the romance, it focused more on the scam artist who faked the hauntings by abusing his daughter.

  • Goodbear

Amazing sketch comedy. This was the only comedy show I saw at the Fringe and not my pick. But as all the sketches were located in the fictional Hotel Apre Dieu (After Life), it won me over and had me laughing so hard my cheeks hurt. Super versatile sketch comedy duo introduced us to all the guests and all the rooms in the hotel in just an hour.

  • Wondr

After Pixel Dust, I couldn’t wait to get back into the theater to see the alternating play. Same team, different story–this time about a single mom running the @wondrwomanuk twitter handle. The themes about how we use social to find a voice and intersectionality in feminist representation rang true–but it didn’t knock me off my feet like Pixel Dust. It didn’t have the same polish in execution or story.

  • Future Play VR Studio

Welcome to a dome filled with many new VR experiences, inviting you to explore. My favorites were the VR movie Dear Angelica (animated exploration of grief with Anjelica Huston and Mae Whitman as voices), The Guardian’s First Impressions (re-creating what an infant sees and hears in its first six months), and the audio mixing game Dato DUO. The most important thing I learned? The best VR movies are the ones that realize it’s no longer about creating for one POV–it’s about creating a world to explore.

  • Tom and Bunny Save the World

Zombie musical in a shipping container theater. It delivered on everything it promised to be–lesbians, odd British geographical humor, fake blood, and lots of gravy.

  • Speaking in Tongues: The Lies
  • Speaking in Tongues: The Truth

These two shows are acts 1 and 2 of the same Australian play. I accidentally saw them out of order, but I actually enjoyed it that way. It turned what would have been a linear play into a more abstract exploration of coupling, marriage, and fear. But the best part was the set-up: swivel chairs. The audience sat in the middle and we swiveled around to see the actors. I LOVED watching the other audience members just as much as the play. Maybe more.

Continue reading

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Purple Preparations

I can’t believe it’s almost here.

After almost three years of preparations, I leave for Edinburgh next week for Transmission at the 2017 Festival Fringe.

You’d think with that much advance notice I’d feel totally ready, but I’m not. It’s been a whirlwind few months of final rehearsals, revisions, and notes. Writing has always been and will always be my job, and though I absolutely LOVE it, it definitely feels like one right now.

My life has been leading up to this big production for so long–and now I’m beginning to worry that it won’t live up to the hype.

So I decided to do something CRAZY that would make it more special…


Yes, that’s right: I dyed my hair purple.

I never thought I’d want to do something so “artsy” and “unconventional” to my own body. I am usually so cautious and careful (though I did ask my boss for permission). The day after my mom asked with trepidation how I felt, if I was already regretting it.

I told her about the nightmare I had had that night: that I had woken up and it was back to brown. She didn’t question it after that.

My parents also asked if people were staring at me oddly or if it was attracting any unwanted attention. Nope. If anything, I’ve had more co-workers stop by my office this week to say that it’s AWESOME than I have winning any sales contest even…

For being such a shy person in my younger years, I relish the double take and the extra stares now. I’ve always been a purple princess. Now I’m confident enough to wear it proud–just like when I decided to move to Canada and be honest about being an artist at my core.

So even if I don’t sleep again until my birthday and Edinburgh and Transmission are nothing like I expect them to be–at least I’ve got purple hair.


*And anyways, since when has theatre ever been what I’ve expected it to be? That’s what good theatre is anyways: surprising.



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What does Permanent Residency Mean?

When I wrote my first installment of the Canada vs. USA blog series on Howlround, I was unsure that I’d ever feel permanent in Canada.

Just a few days before the second blog post published, on June 11th:

I became a permanent resident of Canada.

When I got the email confirmation, my co-workers who are born and raised Canadian didn’t understand why I wanted to jump up and down.

My family is excited, but also still asking the question: “So what does being a permanent resident mean?”

Great question. So here’s my answer.

Just the facts:

  • I don’t have to be employed full-time in order to stay in Canada.
  • I don’t have to be employed full-time in order to keep health care.
  • I can apply for city, province, and country-wide grants to fund my professional writing and art projects.
  • I can submit my plays in more contests and festivals in the communities where I live and make my art.
  • I can leave Canada without fearing that I’ll be cut off from my communities and home here forever after.*

But for me, it means so much more.

  • Feeling welcomed and stable in the communities I’ve lived in for the past 3, almost 4 years!
  • The freedom to put down financial roots–approval to build more of the life I’ve already started here
  • Guarantee that I can continue contributing to the Canadian theatre, film, and arts landscape
  • The ability to apply and be considered equally for arts funding and opportunities
  • The freedom to work where I want, because I’m no longer dependent on any one position to define my residency status**

Moving to Canada might not be the most adventurous leap of faith. Yes, they speak English here and it’s just across the border from the country where I was born and spent the first couple decades of my life.

Girl in red shirt wearing Canada sticker on her cheek, holding maple leaf balloon.

But for me, it’s a huge threshold to cross. Most of us cross the threshold into adulthood when we move out of our parent’s houses, go to college, get our first “real world” job. I’ve done all of these things, but this more than anything else is the firebrand of my independence. I didn’t have to move here or struggle through the first few years of grad school and then artistic poverty/expat life.

Moving to Canada is something my past prepared me for, but I did on my own.

I was born in the States, but it does feel like Canada chose me.

And I fought to chose it.

I can’t vote and I am not a citizen yet, but celebrating Canada’s 150th anniversary as a permanent resident is enough for me.

*I can’t just up and leave yet. Until I’m a citizen, I have to remain in the country for 2-3 out of the next 5 years to re-qualify for my permanent residency. But that’s a commitment I’m willing to make.

**Before you think this means I’m going to immediately do any of the above, let’s look at how much it took me to get here:

  • Thousands of dollars– and this was without a lawyer
  • English Language test– I studied at Oxford University AND went to graduate school in Canada, but I still had to spend $$$ and an entire Saturday to prove it.
  • FBI fingerprinting– I officially don’t have a record!
  • Full-time job for a year and a half–That’s how I earned the points in order to qualify to apply. My contributions to the community (like mentoring) don’t count.
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Transmission- Help us launch

I love working on Transmission because it’s all about dreaming BIG.

Unlike the other independent productions I’ve worked on, Transmission promises to push the boundaries of what we can pack into one theatrical production.

Though I love writing for black boxes and small spaces, adapting to the challenges of small budgets and audiences, it’s freeing to dream in the other direction.

What are we creating in Transmission?

The short explanation: Arrival meets Pokemon Go.

The “long” explanation:
transmission is is an immersive theatre production that tells the story of two brilliant sisters selected to join a mission to meet our celestial neighbors. Their story is told through a live show at the 2017 Edinburgh Fringe Festival, a podcast, and several site-specific, augmented reality scenes that are linked to specific locations throughout Edinburgh.

What we’ll have by August 2017:

  • 16 podcast episodes
  • 13+ hours of content
  • Live 1 hour show
  • Augmented reality experiences sited around Edinburgh
  • An app developed to link you to all this content

That’s WAY more than a Netflix show.

What started with Ian Garrett (our artistic director) is now coming to life with an international team that reflects many beliefs, lifestyles, home countries, and families–all of them working artists and technologists who believe in the method and the message of Transmission.

For two and a half years, I’ve researched the science behind our show, read related fiction and nonfiction, consulted experts, hashed out the character details with my writing team, revised alone and in a group–most of this done alone.

Now it’s time to bring you into the process.

What does this mean?

  1. Buy a ticket to the show!
    If you’re in Edinburgh or can be there in August, come participate in the live show and the augmented reality sites all over the city.
  2. Donate
    We’re in the middle of a fundraising campaign through July 10th. In order to dream big, we need your support. Believe with us that in creating Transmission, we are creating not only the theatre of the future, but imagining a viable future for humanity.
  3. Share
    Listen to the podcast. Leave a review on iTunes. Share the show on your social media and, better yet, word of mouth with your network.

Computer screen with color-coded spreadsheetsI’m equally excited and terrified to let the audience into the world we’ve created. But there’s only so much that I can do on paper. It’s time to stop making spreadsheets of all the scenes and start embracing that there’s only so much we can do to predict how the audience will behave.

Isn’t that the fun of live theatre? Isn’t that the whole reason this excites me–because as a dramaturg and a writer, I don’t know how this is “supposed” to work?

If you’ve heard me talk about this show in person, you’ll know the science excites me just as much as the fiction we created. The people I’ve met are part of my family now. And I just know that it’ll invite new audiences into the theatre and it’ll challenge everyone’s world view.

Join me in a future where the daughters of Syrian refugees lead the world’s top scientists in launching the humanity’s first interstellar mission to Proxima b.

Let’s dream big.

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In the Room(s) Where It Happens

I haven’t seen Hamilton, but making Transmission feels just as epic.

Or more so, because our performance series does not recast the past but looks forward 50 years into the future…

Last weekend I spent most of Saturday and Sunday gathered with the cast and crew of Transmission in various locations in Toronto. One of them being a stage at CineSpace Studios–just a big long hallway away from where they filmed Handmaiden’s Tale.

No, I didn’t get to watch much of the green screen/motion capture filming. But I did contribute as a writer and dramaturg as we recorded audio and video scripts that I had written.

After years of developing the structure, months of creating the characters, and weeks of writing and re-writing the scripts, I got to help our cast and crew bring them to life.

It was electrifying to finally meet the actors, director, producers, and designers. We’re going to make the thing!

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The first batch of recording happened without me. Sadly, the day job didn’t allow me to pick up in the middle of April and go to Edinburgh for the International Science Festival and a week of filming on site.


Writing for Transmission has been a new creation experience for me, one that I need to learn to keep working in theater and film. Due to the international cast, international crew, international producing and span of the entire project, collaboration is key. Working in the moment, responding to feedback and making changes on the spot–after months of planning ahead–is what it’s all about.

It’s also different to be asked by actors what I meant when I wrote a script. My first two college productions kept me strictly out of the rehearsal space. My Indie 6ix staged reading at Storefront was still a workshop, so Q&A with the cast operated in a different way.

But in this case, the actors ask and they CARE. And it’s essential for this production that we incorporate their perspectives.

It’s important that main characters Leila and Zada Karam are the daughters of refugees from Syria. Fifty years in the future, we’re imagined two leaders in the interstellar mission to meet humanity’s celestial neighbors on Proxima Centauri B as the children of Syrian refugees who are entering Canada right now.

Bedroom audio recording session with man standing, women sitting in front of microphone and script pages reading, and man on phone recording

Aaron Willis, Leila Ghaznavi, and Myles Avery recording Transmission audio.

Imagining all this to write a first draft was one thing. We had to make some guesses to get the bones of the scenes and conflicts on the page. But now that we have actors on board who have experience with immigration, persecution, leaving home behind due to war and conflict–those guesses needed to be corrected.

The experts interviewed in the podcast corrected the science at the root of our fiction.
The actors are our experts in fleshing out each character as a living, breathing human.

Thankfully one actor pointed out a character’s name meant “horny cat” before it was too late to change…

We’ve got over half of the scenes recorded, the ticketing page is LIVEso please go and buy your tickets for the Mission Briefing in August now–and the rehearsal schedule is up for the rest of the summer.

I’ve bought my plane tickets.

For a deeper look behind the scenes, stay tuned to the podcast as June will bring interviews with the cast and writing team.

Stay close…

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Unexpected Superhero

My mom always knew I was a superhero.


My mom sent this card to me during my first year at Rice. And then again in this version during my first year “in the real world.”

In the past month, I’ve begun to believe it.

The new year has been hard on me. A future I thought had been laid out at the end of 2016 blew up in numerous ways. You know what they say about the best laid plans…

My word of the year SERENITY sure is coming in handy.

It’s been difficult to put into words because I don’t usually post about my personal life on the interwebs. At least not in straight-forward ways. I’m not a big fan of navel-gazing, bemoaning my lot in life and all the obstacles I’m fighting against. That doesn’t help anyone–least of all myself.

Those obstacles–my vulnerabilities and fears–are indeed what make me a superhero.

I can tell you about the many ways that I’m keeping busy, making art, climbing mountains, WRITING UP A STORM on Transmission, grieving and burying the broken parts of my heart. Or I can show you.

Hercinia Art Collective’s April 29th Arts Party brings you…



Massey Ahmar, Maggie Sulc, and Caroline Sawyer (left to right) in ZOMBIES OR SNORING?

Jim and Olivia are settling in for the night. Or at least, that’s what Jim would like to do. Olivia would love to turn off her night terrors and drift off just like her new boyfriend.

But something won’t let her nod off… could there really be something sinister that only she can sense?

This fifteen-minute radio drama flips the narrative on the dumb blonde girl screaming away at that zombie movie. Cute horror, as some Toronto playwrights have called it. That’s my style.

I felt bad for a milli-second casting my co-worker in the male role. Why? Because there’s not much to him besides snoring. In fact, looking back at my plays, most of the male characters look pretty weak and act weak for large portions, if not the entirety, of their stories.

This is not because I dislike men. I’m not a raging feminist trying to twist them all into evil privileged impotent dudes. I didn’t even realize I had this habit until after last Saturday’s reading of Zombies or Snoring? It’s just that the stories I choose to write revolve around strong women finding their power and facing their fears.

Personally haven’t found as many men who are willing to do the same: admit to their fears, ask for help, and then face them. Or maybe I’m not willing to slow down my journey to walk them through it.

I’m still hurting. It may not look like it, but that’s because I see no reason why I can’t grieve and continue building the future I want for myself at the same time.

Feeling the fear and doing it anyway?

Like I said, that’s what makes me a superhero.

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Are you listening? Transmission the Podcast

I can’t even begin to tell you how PUMPED I am to share Transmission the Podcast.

So I won’t… Listen for yourself!

Proxima B Centarui (exoplanet) and "transmission podcast"

Each of the first 8 episodes answer a question related to interstellar space travel, the existence of extraterrestrial intelligence, and what this would mean for our society today. And they’ll all be out by April 16th: binge-worthy podcasting.

I listened to the first episode on the way home from work. It perfectly fit my commute home. Giddy is how I felt leaving the subway. I heard Seth Shostek speak on OUR podcast–I heard him on Star Talk Radio speaking with Neil de Grasse Tyson just a few weeks ago!

That means I’m even closer to Neil de Grasse Tyson and Bill Nye the Science Guy in six degrees of separation…

Then the next episodes released in May, June, and July will lead up to the launch of the distributed performance of Transmission: a fictionalized narrative based on all of this science and expert thought.

I wish I could bring all of you with me to the Edinburgh Fringe in August, to discover all the visual, audio, and live bits of this story haunting the city.

But at least I can bring you all into the story and get you hooked on what it means to not be alone in the universe.

Listen, share widely, and follow @luxtaterra on Twitter and Facebook to follow the last stages of development before our August 2017 launch!

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The List – What You Consider Great Art

When I called out for great art, you responded in spades.

13 responses before I even went to bed that night!

I’ve read/watched a few (marked with stars), but there are so many more here than I will be able to consume on my own. Please share!

And before you stop there–scroll down to the bottom of the list for my own personal suggestions.

*There may or may not be a surprise at the end…

The List:

  • The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making by Catherynne Valente *
  • Annihilation/The Area X Trilogy by Jeff Vandermeer
  • The Opposite of Loneliness by Marina Keegan*
  • Star Trek: Voyager (TV show)
  • Masters of Sex (TV show)
  • Fates and Furies by Lauren Groff
  • The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern
  • Unscrewed Podcast “An Army of Lovers” (Podcast)
  • Leonard Cohen poetry
  • Dreams by Akiro Kurosawa (Film)
  • Ireland by Frank Delaney
  • Speechless (TV show)
  • Fleabag (TV show)
  • Pushing Daisies (TV show)
  • A Gentleman in Moscow by Amor Towles
  • Tiny Beautiful Things by Cheryl Strayed
  • Letters to a Young Poet by Rainer Maria Rilke
  • Angels of Our Better Nature by Stephen Pinker
  • Guns, Germs, and Steel by Jared Diamond
  • Tactical Performance by Larry Bogad
  • The West Wing (TV show)
  • I Know This Much Is True by Wally Lamb *
  • Works by Barbara Kingsolver
  • Nayyirah Waheed poetry
  • When Things Fall Apart: Heart Advice for Difficult Times by Pema Chodron
  • Stephen Universe (TV show) *
  • Juana Inez (TV show)
  • The Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss
  • Doc Martin (TV show)
  • War and Peace by Leo Tolstoy
  • Ringworld by Larry Niven
  • Childhood’s End by Arthur C. Clarke
  • Foundation by Isaac Asimov
  • Scoop by Evelyn Waugh
  • The Loved Ones by Evelyn Waugh
  • Dorothy Sayer’s mystery novels, in chronological order

My own suggestions:

  • StarTalk All Stars (Podcast)
  • Seveneves by Neal Stephenson
  • Fuller House (TV show)
  • Gilmore Girls (TV show)
  • The Sparrow by Mary Doria Russell

Me and 2 puppies!

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