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
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Me and 2 puppies!

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Send me your art

Dear World:

I’m struggling this year. I thought I’d left the struggle behind at the end of 2016, that the sunshine peeking through this week had cleared it all away. Not so.

I’m in need of lights of art to help me through. To be clear, I’m making my own art: radio plays, new draft of Raggedy’s Kingdom, always research and connections for Transmission, more writing everyday. But I need more in the tank.

What movies, television, and books do you suggest for me at this moment?

They don’t have to be super positive, shallow, only animated or comic in nature. One of my absolute favorite parts of 2017 so far has been reading Seveneves by Neal Stephenson–which starts with the Moon exploding and making the Earth uninhabitable for 5,000 years!

Things I love but cannot watch/read more of at this moment:

  • Black Mirror
  • The Untold History of the United States
  • The Nightingale (books like this about war)

Everyday I look at the news and I die a little. I go to work and face my limits there, overcome them. Drain the batteries and come home to care for myself and do it all over again.

I’m not the only one doing this. I am lucky to be safe, gainfully employed in a supportive workplace, cared for and supported by family both near and abroad.

This phase of history is just one in a constant cycle. It’s not the end of the world. The world as we know it is constantly dying and being reborn as something slightly different.

A few weeks ago, I was tagged to repost more art on Facebook, to fight the constant stream of news. A good idea, but I couldn’t remember to add it there. So I’m adding it here.

Petunias. Georgia O'Keefe painting from 1925.

Petunias. Georgia O’Keefe. 1925.

Either on Facebook, Twitter, responses to this post here, or personal messages, please share your suggestions.

I cannot promise to take you up on every single one, but I will repost to make sure they are shared for all of us. To keep drinking in and turning back out into the greater world.

Thanks, Maggie

 

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One Word 2017

What has the new year brought so far?

I’ve heard it said that what you do on the first day of the New Year is a precursor to what that year will be. Then again, I don’t make new year’s resolutions, I rarely eat the black-eyed peas my Southern upbringing considers good luck charms for the new year, and I still consider August/September more of a threshold than the end of each date in my calendar going up one.

But if you believe in all that, it’s another sign to me and my stubbornness that healing doesn’t come overnight. I spent New Year’s Eve 2016 in bed, sleeping. Knocked out by Tylenol PM by a cold that struck hard. By the first day back at work it was practically gone from my system. But it took a whole night and day of pure rest to nip it in the butt.

I thought I’d learned enough to enter this year with both fists swinging, ready to fight the fight, hit the ground running. It just took the one day of me taking care of myself, right?

WRONG.

Like the end of 2016, the beginning of 2017 has shown me that not all of what happens is in my control. In fact, only a very tiny little bit is.

Serenity

Serenity is my one word for 2017.

I cannot change the results of political elections, I cannot change the entire capitalist system we live in or even the bits of my industry. Not on my own, not overnight.

I cannot keep things as they are. I wouldn’t really want them to stay them same, even though at this very moment I am wishing for just that.

Until I can embrace the fact that change is the key to the future, to my favorite stories, people, and places, I’ll say my word and remember the whole serenity prayer. And I’ll keep saying it, even if it takes all year!

One year soon I’d really like my one word to be more goal-related in terms of my art and writing career. Although maybe that’s why it’s not: I don’t need to keep that front and center. It always is.

What’s your one word for 2017?

Honorable Mention goes to this great quote I saw on Matt Nathanson’s Facebook page: 

You are allowed to be a masterpiece and a work of in progress, simultaneously.

(Apparently it’s a repost from Guerilla Feminism, but I’m crediting it to both.)

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The year of Transmission

I haven’t given up on horror–if anything, I’m personally diving into more horror flash fiction and audio play scripts–but 2017 is the year for the premiere of the large scale theatre project I’ve been working on since November 2014.

Transmission

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Transmission is about aliens, interstellar travel, new technology, collaboration, family, loss, and the human race’s place in the universe. It’s science fiction at its best and even better, theatre at it’s best. I’ve had a blast playing with film, audio, podcasting, dance, and augmented reality as a writer and dramaturg.

And this year, I finally get to share all this work with you.

A few months ago, I put together this short video clip for Volcano Theatre’s Emerging Artist showcase to introduce the work that Ian Garrett and the rest of the creative team have been working on for the past few years.

The background comes from the summer 2015 Indy Convergence where we explored the themes, but also the performance formats of geo-location and site-driven work that drive Transmission. It’s where we started to figure out how to make the context and the content speak to each other–to tell a story that can be followed by individuals in pieces but speaks to us all as members of the human race.

Now we have this almost fully formed story and the pieces are coming together for it’s launch!

To learn more about the developing story as we prepare for the premieres later in 2017, check out the following:

And check out this blog for my personal dramaturgy updates! Over and out.

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An American Playwright in Canada (Post 2016 Election)

I meant to share this article, my latest contribution to HowlRound, a few weeks ago.

An American Playwright in Canada

It’s the first of a three part series about new play development in the United States and Canada. I straddle the border in many ways, and often wonder what it’s “really like” for artists on both sides.

I know where I’m supposed to be right now–here in Toronto, making connections, creating–but it’s hard to gauge from the constant complaints about “well, in the States they do this for new play development…” and then “but they have funding and government support for the arts in Canada! Why are they complaining?”

So I decided to ask two people even more immersed in new play development to weigh in for the next two installments. Stay tuned!

Somehow in the spin of getting the second installment up and running, I’ve let it slip away to the bottom of my to-do list.

And then the election happened.

So much has been said, so much will be said. Anger, hate, miscommunication, false information–it’s running rampant.

I feel like I should contribute my voice this time, but I don’t know what to say.

It’s odd being in Canada right now, still in flux as to whether I’ll get permanent residency. It’s scary to really feel like the place I come from is now dangerous, unwelcoming. It started this summer with all the shootings and violence, continued with the primaries, and is just spewing negative energy and actions into the universe right now.

No longer the refuge and safe space that home is supposed to be, America is my origin but at this moment, it is not my home.

A friend from Rice put this on my wall a year ago:

canada

It’s even more true today. Don’t look to Canada to escape. Only come here if it’s where you need to be.

As I said in my article: the grass always looks greener elsewhere. It’s not that simple.

The people I’m proud of are the family, friends, and acquaintances working to create positive change NOW. Whether that means donating to organizations to protect the rights of everyone in the United States, writing to their representatives to voice their growing concerns, or sponsoring a bipartisan group hug (Go Rice Owls!!!).

I super respect the comments made by the Hamilton cast. They were respectful, but acknowledged the feelings of many Americans at the prospect of the new federal administration. I always knew the theatre was where it’s at!

Yelling and screaming to tell someone that their way of thinking is flat out wrong has never seemed effective to persuade anyone, at least not in my experience. Check out the NPR episode “Flip the Script” of Invisibilia for some pretty stark examples of how this works.

I’m trying to figure out now how best I can foster conversation and work to create the world I want to live in. I can’t control everything, but the small slice of the universe I do control will be welcoming, peaceful, optimistic, proactive, and supportive of others who want the same.

blame

(or this other xkcd comic that I found today, of course)

 

 

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My First Quarter Century: Year in Review

The constant stream of social media and calendar engagements makes it difficult to see what I have accomplished every year of my life. This was a big one, as predicted by everything that brought in my 25th year.

Pictured: First visit to Niagara Falls, first sisters-only vacation

  • Took on full-time work in sales and marketing in the publishing industry, higher education.
  • Attended two writers retreats and fully participated in every aspect available within Storefront Theatre’s Playwrights Unit 2015-2016.
  • Wrote 400-500 pages of new material in crafting my horror play Raggedy’s Kingdom. (This page count does not include any other projects, personal or collaborative)
  • SOLD OUT the staged reading of Raggedy’s Kingdom in Storefront Theatre’s Indie 6ix Playwright’s Festival. (Which means I ran a successful email, social media, and word-of-mouth marketing campaign–check out the Before and After.)

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  • Represented Playwrights Guild of Canada as their Friday “Follow-the-Playwright” at the 2016 Canadian Writers Summit.
  • Successfully managed a smooth transition out of my friendly housemate position after a year and a half of service and living in community.
  • First steady romantic relationship since high school.
  • Became a contributing member of Kimbourne Park United Church and the Garden @ Kimbourne.
  • Attended Zumba classes so regularly my instructor came to my staged reading and I now get invited to dance at the front of the class on at least three songs most weeks…#dancingqueen
  • Traveled to Asia for the first time, which included training for and climbing Mount Fuji in Japan.
  • Succeeded in giving up social media for a full calendar month–plus even a few more days into August!

There are less items on the list than in previous years, but I am narrowing down to pursue the projects that really mean the most to me. Sales, I realize, is something I have a knack for and need to keep developing as an artist who wants to promote her work–plus it’s great practice in storytelling and engaging an audience.

So that full-time plus Raggedy’s Kingdom and Transmission, the big project I’m collaborating on for the 2017 Edinburgh Festival Fringe, are it right now.

Winnowing my projects down both inspires and infuriates me at turns. Shutting doors for any reason–even a good, healthy one–is depressing, even while the grasping desperation and exhaustion of previous years haunts me.

But for now, at the beginning of a new year with lots to be grateful for, it is time to listen to the old soul within me as it whispers: “It’s coming. Slowly, but surely, it’s coming.”

As I enter the second half of my twenties, this is what I’m writing to remember and embrace everything that I’ve accomplished. Let it inspire and motivate every new step I take next.

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Living in Community, Why I Stayed in Canada

Canada has been filled with so many unexpected surprises.

(I should have known that when I took the plunge three years ago, huh?)

These surprise opportunities have provided the most compelling reasons for remaining in Canada post-graduation. One in particular deserves some explanation and extra gratitude as it gave me so much more than a roof over my head and a job.

In September 2014, just a few weeks free of my final graduate school work, I was seeking my next step. With Mom and Dad moved even further across the globe, going “home” to Texas no longer felt like a clear choice or back-up. The thought of starting over Stateside appealed to me, but I again felt no clear call telling me where I should go. The thought of journeying further abroad out of English-speaking North America excited me, but the only signs I heard pointed toward staying put longer in Toronto.

With no job prospects in my career area or even just not in minimum wage retail sales, I needed a more tangible reason to stay.

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Maggie in front of the KK House in Canada t-shirt in winter snow.

And that’s when I received the job posting from St Stephen-in-the-Field’s priest Mother Maggie. Two single moms were seeking a roommate on behalf of their young adult daughters. Not just any roommate, but a “Friendly Housemate” who would mentor two women with intellectual disabilities as they transitioned into independent living for the first time. In exchange for setting up the house, agreeing to and enforcing some ground rules, and offering support, guidance, and role-modeling of safe, independent living, I would have a place to live for at least a year.

I lived at “KK” house with Krystal and Karen for a year and a half.

Although I had no previous professional experience working with adults with disabilities, something clicked when I interviewed with the moms and then their daughters. I thought up roommate agreements, plans for how to organize our schedules, and ways to bond over Friday night Glee watching parties and suddenly on Halloween 2014 I found myself carting my suitcases and clothes over to the new house.

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Follow the Playwright–Me!

I’m off social media for the month of July (at least, we’ll see how this goes…), but I was BIG on social media in June–

For Friday June 17th of the 2016 Canadian Writers’ Summit, the Playwrights Guild of Canada followed me around the conference chronicling the role of the playwright in the overall writing community and Canadian society through the eyes of a young, emerging artist: ME!

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Maggie at the 2016 Canadian Writers’ Summit.

Check out this recap on the Playwright Guild’s website: http://www.playwrightsguild.ca/sites/default/files/CWS-FTP-Final.pdf

Suffice it to say: I got to participate in yet another fake protest, witness a brand new interactive documentary all about “story,” and even do a bit of impromptu writing based on prompts for beginning writers.

Though my year of development with Storefront is over, I’ve still got a lot of creative projects on the go. And I’m still getting feedback on how to write that final draft (fingers crossed) of Raggedy’s Kingdom!

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Aftermath

After the staged reading of Raggedy’s Kingdom

It’s taken me a week to recover. It may seem odd to say that …

since it was such a huge success!

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Photo by Emma Mackenzie Hillier. Pictured: Scott Garland, Caroline Sawyer, Chloe Sullivan Kat Letwin, and Kevin Chew.

All that worry from the weeks before when I was dreaming of entering an empty theatre, of no one showing up… the opposite occurred. After a few hours of waiting impatiently between rehearsal and the top of the show, suddenly 20 minutes until the show I found people swarming toward the entrance of Storefront Theatre.

Members of St. Stephen-in-the-Field, Bread and Honey, Kimbourne Park United, Nelson Education co-workers, fellow American expats, mentors from York University, the Shaw Festival, and the LMDA, my Zumba instructor, past roommates and their family, frineds from Indy Convergence and York University alumni, one of my volunteers from last year’s SummerWorks, plenty of Toronto Cold Reads writers and actors, boyfriend… I am sorry if I forgot anyone because there were so many of you.

I thought I would have the smallest house all week because I didn’t grow up here, I’m just starting my career in the Toronto indie theatre scene, my family is literally spread out across the globe… excuses, excuses.

Instead, I had such enthusiastic turnout that we had to ADD IN MORE SEATS. My beloved dramaturg had to STAND through the entire performance because she didn’t have a place to sit.

I found that all the work I’ve been putting in to growing connections and community has created an amazing, diverse audience for my art.

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Before

Before the staged reading of Raggedy’s Kingdom…

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8 pm, Monday May 30th. Storefront Theatre 955 Bloor St. West. $10 tickets–click above for more information.

It’s the morning before, about half an hour until I leave for the theatre to go rehearse for five hour with the cast.

To hear these words read in their entirety. To see people collaborate on this play for the first time in more than a cold reading setting.

I’ve done all the good luck things I can think of: lighting the last bit of incense from the first Zen temple we visited in Kyoto last September, writing thank you notes, making a big breakfast, putting on the teapot necklace that comes from my great aunt–the one who inspired this play and gave me the tools and space to let my imagination soar. I also lit a candle for you, Aunt Donna.

I might not feel this way soon, but I’m not as nervous as I thought I’d be. The difference is the audience. Yes, this is for me so I can hear the next step and understand where this play grows next.

But even more, this reading feels like it’s for you. It pains me when people post and email that they can’t attend. On the other hand, it reminds me that there’s a network out there brought together by my story in spite of prior engagements, borders, oceans, and different time zones.

I’m more excited to hear how you react and what you think and to share whatever emotions this creates. (Hopefully some fears, chills, and thrills–as it is a horror play)

Welcome to Raggedy’s Kingdom. She’s been waiting a long time to play with you…

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