About Me

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I'm an NYC-based director, and this is an outlet for my various musings about theater and about the city of New York. Sometimes the subjects run together, sometimes they are entirely separate, but between the two they comprise the most fitful, most intense, most trying love affair of my few years. They fill my head, my heart, my mouth every hour of every day; they could fill a book.

Monday, October 31, 2011

It Is What It Is.

In the end, though, it doesn't matter whether New York was a toxic prison or spiritual haven or both.  It's New York.  It simply is.

One of my favorite books is the Time Traveler's Wife (trust me, it's nothing like the Nicholas Sparks knock-off the movie makes it out to be).  In it, the two lovers, Clare and Henry are madly and passionately devoted to one another.  But I remember thinking that despite their purity of their love, the two seemed incapable of doing anything but making the other inadvertently miserable.  You can't help but wonder, as you read the book, if perhaps they both wouldn't have been better off if they had just never gotten involved with one another.  But then you have to ask yourself, when would they have made that choice?  Because of the circularity of his time travel, when Henry meets Clare for the first time, she's already in love with him.  And when she meets him as a child, he's already married to her.  There really was no beginning to their love.  They love each other because they've always loved each other. 

Likewise, there's no qualifying my love of New York City.  It simply is.  I asked myself for a long time, "Why do I love this place so much?  Why do I stay here?"  It's dirty and it's loud, it's expensive and it's hard.  And though there are a lot of answers you can give to that question - the theater, the museums, the food, the people - none of them were strong enough reasons to explain why I was there.  And then I realized: I love New York because I've always loved New York. 

For a long time, I thought fell in love with the after a vacation with my family when I was 12.  It was only a 2-day trip, but it seemed like every day I lived in the interim, from age 12 to age 18, was spent with a yearning and determination to get back to New York City.

So when I finally came to New York for college, I was already in love.  I loved the city because I could remember being knocked breathless by it as an adolescent, so many years ago.  But I think, when I fell so hard the first time I visited, it was because I could already see myself there.  I could imagine my life in New York City, working and struggling and making and seeing amazing art because I was compelled - because there was nothing greater. 

I love New York now because I can remember myself then, at 12, loving it so much.  But I loved it at 12 because I could see myself now, at 27 still loving the city, still bound to it.  There is no beginning and no end to my love of New York.  It's always existed.  It simply is.  

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Closing Doors

On Saturday, September 25th, I shut the door and switched off the lights for the very last time in the place I've called my home for the past four and a half years.

After we left, Andrew and I stood on my roof quietly for a moment, watching the lights of Harlem twinkle in through the dark patches created from the neighborhood's newly-constructed high-rise condos. 

My roof.  I had my 25th birthday party up here.  I brought up milk crates, and we sat on them in the glow of a string of twinkle lights and some cheap tap-lights from the 99-cent store.  I brought my sisters up here to watch the fireworks on the 4th of July that they visited.  I drank beers here on a blanket with my best friends.  I did yoga up here.  We kissed up here once, on a grey day after we saw St. John's Cathedral.  In the dark I could still see its massive silhouette on the hill, stacked on top of us. 

"I've never left something so permanently before," I told him.  "Really?" Andrew said.  I kissed him again, like I did on that grey day, and we went back downstairs.

Since leaving, I've experienced a curious mixture of grief and elation.  Sometimes I'm struck so intensely by the strangeness and the sadness of the fact that I'll never again enter that room, with its bare window, cheap Ikea daybed and the TV tray doubling as a nightstand.  Other times, I think about the fact that I'm utterly unattached, unbeholden to that space, to its particular dust and clutter, its mice and its rent - and the thought makes me giddy. 

I always meant to buy curtains, replace the TV tray with a real nightstand, but somehow never got around to it.  It wasn't a priority.  During my tenure in NY, I encouraged in myself a sort of monk-like asceticism; I had neither the money nor the space for a lot of stuff.  But as I shut the door on on my room for the last time, a thought came to me, spontaneously and unbidden: never again.

Never again do I want to live so impermanently, in the empty expanse of a space I always meant to make my own.  Never again do I want to live the the shadow of promises I've made to myself. 

It's funny.  Through my self-imposed asceticism, I thought I was cultivating an appropriately monastic spirituality.  New York, I thought to myself, was teaching me how to detach from materialism.  I thought about the spiritual lessons New York was teaching me a lot.  Patience.  The value of hard work. 

In hindsight, though, I wonder if these things that I thought were teaching were actually tearing down: all those moments waiting for a subway or walking behind someone slow were wearing down my patience to a tiny, raw, nub.  All the times I had to work so much harder for what I wanted than I would have anywhere else... maybe it just made me tired.  And I wonder if my bare personal space actually set me adrift in some way.  I wonder if we need things in the same way we need stories - to tie us down, to tell us who we are.

I go back and forth like this, wondering if New York strengthened me or unmoored me - or maybe both.  I guess I'm about to find out.

Saturday, October 29, 2011

The Benefits of Twitter, Part 2

Slowly but surely, I'm coming out of my fog and getting back into my old groove. The first loose end I want to tie up here: finishing my little manifesto on Twitter.  A little over a month ago, I started talking about why Twitter is awesome, and I found had so much to say that I couldn't finish.  But so much that has been so illuminating should not go unsaid.  So, to say that Twitter changed my perspective would not be saying enough.  Without question, it changed my understanding of what the word networking meant, and my intention in seeking an artistic community.  But, let's face it, words in digital space can only go so far, and if my Twitter experience had remained confined there, I think I would have eventually gotten frustrated.  But what was really uplifting about my Twitter experience was how it broadened my actual, physical theater community, too.

It started simply enough.  I was connecting with artists virtually and learning about new companies and projects all over New York City.  All of the networking and connecting and conversing was making me hungry to get out there and start seeing and supporting all the great stuff I was hearing about.  One particular person whom I was followed was the artistic director of a theater company that looked pretty cool.  The company had an intriguing show coming up, so I decided to go. 

The show was great, and after it was over, I spoke to the artistic director.  "Hi,"  I said, "I just wanted to introduce myself.  My name is Leigh Hile, I've been following you and your company on Twitter."

"Oh yeah," he said.  "Leigh.  I've been reading your blog, it's good."

I have to admit, that was a pretty sweet moment for me.  At this point, I had been living and working in New York for about four and a half years.  I had seen a lot of cool theater and introduced myself to a lot of artists I hoped to work with, many of whom I'm pretty sure forgot my name as soon as I spoke it.  This was the first time I had ever introduced myself to one such cool artist to find that he already knew my name

It may not seem like much, but for me, it was the beginning of a whole new way of making connections, finding a community, and becoming a part of new and exciting projects.

The artist I had been following was August Schulenburg and his theater company was Flux Theatre Ensemble.  I quickly came to find that Flux had a kind of artistic integrity that was deeply refreshing.  In addition to being incredibly talented and dedicated, the Flux community turned out to be some of the nicest, most inclusive and supportive group of theater-makers I met in New York.  Working with them brought back a sense of community and a love and excitement for creating theater that I had started to lose. 

After that, things just snowballed.  Gus first invited me to participate in Flux Sundays, and later, to direct a short scene for Flux's have another series.  There I met James Comtois, an awesome playwright and co-artistic director of Nosedive Productions, who in turn, asked me to direct a play for his theater company that summer.  Well, there must be a reason why James was hanging out with Flux, because the warmth and creative energy that I felt working with Flux just continued with my work with Nosedive.

I had more fun, and felt more of a pure purpose in my last five months in New York than I did in the five years previous; it pained me a little that I had planned to leave just when things were getting so good. 

And it didn't end there either.  I started following Kathryn Velvel Jones whom I had met through 50/50 in 2020, and watching her use social media to connect and innovate broadened my understanding of what social media and new technology can do for the arts.  Seeing her show, Better Left Unsaid, got me thinking about a whole new spectrum of theatrical possibilities.

I went to a 2amt "tweet-up" and met a huge number of artists face-to-face that until then I had only known as username, and a whole other group whom I had never heard of and, in turn, went home to follow and support.  I met new friends, new collaborators, and new theater-going buddies. 

I went to dozens of amazing shows that I never would have known about otherwise.   One such show was TerraNOVA Collective's Feeder: A Love Story by James Carter, who after meeting him in-real-life after the show, became yet another friend and collaborator; when later tweeted that I needed help figuring out how to self-produce on a larger level, James got in touch with me right away and offered his advice over coffee. 

I continued to attend Flux Sundays and other Flux readings and events, where I kept growing my circle of friends and collaborators.  I even met folks that I will be able to continue to collaborate with in New Mexico - like Charles Lucas who, as it turns out, works in New Mexico somewhat regularly.  Or like Larry Kunofsky, a great playwright who has actually written a play he's hoping to tour in New Mexico, a possibility I find incredibly exciting.

And, through James' connection to the company, I even got to see a scene from the play I directed for Nosedive in a Vampire Cowboys Saloon - a form of wish fulfillment on the geekiest level.

In seems sort of incredible.  Really?? Twitter made things so good?  But that's my story.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

But You Can See The Whole Sky

Well, I did it.

I came back.  I don't think I really believed I would do it until I stepped of the plane in Albuquerque.  Maybe I still don't believe it.  I have a hard time wrapping my mind around the idea that there is no apartment, no bed waiting for me somewhere in NYC.  

So here I am in my hometown of Albuquerque, New Mexico.  Gertrude Stein once said, "America is my country, but Paris is my hometown," an affirmation I wanted so badly to be true about myself and New York, I even put it in a poem.  But it turns out, it's actually the other way around: New York is and always will be my city, but Albuquerque is ostensibly, immutably, my hometown.  

It's hard.  It's really hard.  I've spent the past week and a half careening wildly between missing the city so much it blurs my vision, and being really, genuinely glad that I made this choice.  Say whatever else you will, it really is beautiful here, with those crisp fall mornings and sunny afternoons and cloudless skies that stretch from horizon to horizon.

And I swear to God, if you don't know what roasting chiles smell like, then you don't really know what fall is.  

But since I am here, and since I'm also taking a small, self-imposed break from theater (making, not seeing) to figure out the kind of work I really want to do, neither the "scenes" or the "city" part of the title of this blog really makes sense anymore.  Ultimately, that's all right - after I first started this blog, I showed it to my then-boyfriend (a casualty of my move, I'm afraid) who said, "It's a good project, but the title is kind of dumb." 

"What!?" I responded, "No it's not!  It's awesome."  And then, a mere matter of weeks later, decided it was indeed kind of dumb.  Of course, by then it was too late to change it.  

So, eventually, I'll have a new blog with a new title that has to do with... um.... whatever it is I end up doing here in New Mexico.  But in the meantime, I'm not a full-blooded Burqueña quite yet and so, as I stumble awkwardly through this transition, I'll do so PUBLICLY and hold on to this blog.  I've got loose ends to wrap up, anyway, ideas that have been rattling around in my head that I never got to express.  

Here I go.  Hasta mañana, friends.