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useful creativity

This morning I was in a movement class where the teacher talked about useful versus useless creativity. Useless, she said, was re-creating a scenario that did not happen, or creating a possible future scenario that might never. Useful – making something interesting that wasn’t there before.

And that is what my friend Chris Tyrell has done. He’s a writer, arts administrator and storyteller whose core story is so interesting – of adoption, rejection, and finally finding his birth mother who helped him understand who he really is – that many of us had urged him to write it down. So he did, not as a memoir, but as a show, an autobiographical musical show that he produced as a fundraiser for the Performing Arts Lodge here, which houses artists who don’t have much money in middle and old age.

That is, a 65-year old man who’s HIV positive, who’s had 2 heart attacks and has severe asthma and defines himself as shy and has never performed onstage, wrote the script and libretto for and produced and publicized a play starring himself and two singers, to tell the intimate story of his terrible childhood and the redemption that came later.

Lesson: just do it. His best friends Bruce and I are theatre professionals who have both been working on projects for years, have read many, many books on how to do it right. Chris didn’t read a single book; he just did it. It was flawed. He had real trouble remembering his lines, he’s not an actor, there were lumpy, awkward and slow bits. But it was extraordinary and moving, because he was telling us the truth, his story, a big story of growth, courage, genetics and heritage, and we heard it and got it, right in the gut.

I’d edited the script and knew the story backwards anyway, from my decades of friendship with this man. But it was thrilling to hear it all again opening night Thursday and at the closing this afternoon. He has always wanted to do this, and so he did.

This city is such an anomaly. The weather! So often glowering skies and rain. I curse the place as I splash through puddles trying to get somewhere – today, to the PAL theatre in a freezing downpour, wearing every layer I’ve brought and under Bruce’s umbrella, telling myself I will NEVER COME BACK! And then suddenly the skies clear and it’s the most beautiful place on earth. Right now, I’m in Bruce’s chair looking out at English Bay under a blue sky, the mountains, the sailboats and tankers; below the trees are bursting into green, and best of all, the rhododendrons are exploding. Gorgeous. And then it will pour again and I will curse.

I’ve visited friend Tara who lives on the water, had coffee and drinks at the Art Gallery with Patsy and Cathy, had several meals with Chris, walked miles, explored Main Avenue, Commercial Drive and Gastown which is not the shoddy touristland it once was, and last night had a fireside evening and delicious dinner chez old friend Margaret and her husband Roy and spent the night there so I could go with Margaret this morning to a class at the Western Front with Jane Ellison, dancer and teacher. I’ve gone with Margaret before and am desperate to find something similar in Toronto. Jane leads her class through an intense 45 minutes of stretching and awakening to the body, then puts on 4 songs of fantastic music of all genres and everyone dances like crazy around the room, then there’s a cool-down and stretch. She’s wise and luminous and it’s a great deal of fun.

Now I’m waiting for Chris to call when he gets back from the theatre where they’re striking the set, and we’ll have dinner and he’ll begin to come down to earth. He is a man of superhuman energy, and so I’m sure will begin a new project, perhaps a new script, tomorrow. And tomorrow morning, I am getting the bus to Horseshoe Bay to get the ferry to Bowen Island, to stay for two days with an old friend, the singer Shari Ulrich. And then to Vancouver Island. All the while tucking thoughts and ideas into my back pocket.

Because I have learned my lesson: JUST @#$# DO IT.

PS. This visit is also a trip back in time for me. I walk to the PAL theatre along Cardero Street, and pass the apartment building where my ex and I, he 26 and I 29, moved in together in May 1980, the place to which we brought our baby girl back from the hospital in May 1981. I stand and look up at our third floor windows and wonder who that blissful young woman was – I hardly remember her.

At the theatre, I’m reconnecting with colleagues from my actress days in the Seventies. One of them said to me, today, “You look younger now than you did when you worked here 40 years ago.” And though of course it’s a lie, this grandmother with grey hair, I do feel younger. Because I’ve put all that useless creativity, to a great extent, away.



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About Beth

I began keeping a journal at the age of nine. Nearly fifty years later, I started this online journal, sharing reflections, reviews, updates, and the occasional secret.

Some Blogs I Follow

Chris Walks
This blog evolves. It once was about travels. Now it’s a reason to be at the keyboard that I value.

Theresa Kishkan
Theresa Kishkan is a writer living on the Sechelt Peninsula on the west coast of Canada.

I walk on. With my feet, and in my mind as well.

Carrie Snyder
Wherever you’ve come from, wherever you’re going, consider this space a place for reflection and pause.


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