31 days of giving

At the beginning of December, my sister Heidi did something awesome. She’s generally great, but this was extra super cool. She posted this on her Facebook timeline:

After 30 Days of Thanksgiving and the positivity that it brought to my life, I was trying to think of something for December. I have come up with 31 Days of Giving!

It is the season for giving, and so every day this month I am going to tag a friend and ask them what not-for-profit organization they think is worthy of a donation this holiday season.

It’s not an invitation to debate the worthiness of the charities, merely a way for everyone to find out about organizations they didn’t know about that might align with their values to donate to this holiday season.

Remember, a $25 donation to a not-for-profit is tax deductible.

When I asked her if this was her idea or part of a larger campaign, she said, “I came up with it. I thought it would be better than a charity a day from me, that I’d get a wider view of places where people could focus their giving.”

Heidi is half way through the month, and she’s received a response from every friend she’s tagged. Below, are the suggestions she’s received to date. I’m not officially endorsing any of these organizations, except for the one I personally shared on December 4.

December 1     Heifer International
December 2     Mattea’s Joy
December 3     More Birthdays
December 4     terraNOVA Collective
December 7     Colorado Strong
December 9     Wounded Warrior Project
December 13   Stray Rescue
December 14   Human Rights Council
December 15   Autism Speaks

 

One of Heidi’s friends made the good point you should confirm causes aren’t scams before donating. She shared an article from Consumer Reports on how to vet organizations.

There are only 15 days left in 2012 to donate to a worthy cause. Do any of these strike your fancy? What charities or not-for-profit organizations do you support?

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instagram igniting millions of mirror neurons

We may be headed into the first ever live tweeted war. Just like Arab Spring, the conflict in Gaza is blowing up on social media. The Israeli government just asked its citizens to refrain from posting details on Facebook and Twitter about rocket attack locations. These updates offer too much information to Hamas, giving them an advantage for future strikes.

I hope they continue. Both sides. On Twitter, Rana B. Baker (@RanaGaza), a Palestinian blogger posted this text her father received:
“The next phase is on the way. Stay away from Hamas elements.”

If you search #Gaza or #IDF (Israel Defense Forces) on Instagram, you’ll find a mass of images from both sides, showing destruction, propaganda and suffering. It’s a virtual war zone, and Twitter and Facebook are extended battlefields.

If you aren’t familiar with the Palestinian/Israeli conflict, Noam Chomsky recently wrote a wonderful piece that offers a first hand perspective, including a trip he took to Gaza at the end of October. He calls the Gaza Strip “the world’s largest open-air prison.” A linguist and philosopher, Chomsky has always been one of the most reliable and enlightened sources on this mufti-generational conflict.

Since the escalation of violence at the beginning of this week, my heart’s been heavy. I have both Palestinian and Israeli friends and colleagues. Most of them live in the U.S. and believe a peaceful resolution to the fight is long overdue. But here we are again. More people dying. More hatred born.

Recently, I’ve been doing research on how mindfulness meditation can alter the left prefrontal cortex of the brain, the part of the brain that cultivates compassion. I’ve also been reading about “mirror neurons,” which promote empathy. In the mix, I discovered this RSA talk from American economist Jeremy Rifkin. It speaks directly to what is happening in the Middle East.

We all know – in the pits of our stomachs – the violence is going to get worse before it gets better. And, I hope every moment of it spreads socially, affecting the minds of millions of people. Perhaps, finally seeing images and hearing the voices in real time will ignite our mirror neurons. Our empathy will grow, and we will come together as a global society to realize we are all in this together, on this great plane, trying to live this one life with grace and dignity.

transmedia storytelling

At the end of last year, August Schulenburg, Artistic Director of Flux Theatre Ensemble, posted at the TCG blog, TCG Circle, “The World Wide What Next”. He primarily focused on fundraising, social networking and how companies interact with their audience in the 21st Century. At the end of the post, he brought up the subject of transmedia storytelling. He quotes Max Koknar on 2am Theatre blog, “Don’t just write/produce/devise a new play. Build a new world and loose it upon ours. Do it incrementally and make the live performance your premium content.”

Two years ago, I’d written a play, Feeder: A Love Story, and it had some problems. First, was it was about a couple living the feederism lifestyle, and I got it all wrong. I wrote a thriller disguised as a love story. It was a series of monologues and short scenes about a subject on which I skimmed the research. The feeder and feedees who came to see the workshop readings were disappointed and, in some cases, angry. The other problem was the world of the play wasn’t consistent. One character was creating a video diary for a television program, and the other character spoke to another, unseen character in monologues. Their worlds didn’t make sense together, and the characters felt disconnected.

Once, I shared this play with a director, and he responded, “I don’t even know if it’s a play.” That may be the single most insulting thing for someone to say to a playwright. I get the statement’s sentiment. Perhaps the story isn’t well constructed. Perhaps it’s not a traditional dialogue rich theatrical experience. Perhaps they have a narrow opinion of what a play is. Still, the statement stuck with me in a way that challenged me.

Finally, I concluded, “Maybe this isn’t a play. Or, maybe the play is a part of a larger experience.”

I valued the workshops the play received, for during this time I made two major discoveries. More research needed to be done, and the characters yearned to live in the same world. I didn’t want to lose the aspect of monologue storytelling, but keeping the current scenario no longer made sense. I chose to shift the entire given circumstances to tie in with one of the main plot points in the play:

The characters share a blog together.

Suddenly, I saw this story as a theatrical journey rather than a traditional play. What if the characters’ blog existed? What if both characters share stories leading up to the opening of the play? What if this experience was as essential to the journey as the play itself?

To talk about how entertainment is pulling people away from live performances and gluing them to televisions or computers is to beat a dead horse. It is obvious, unless you’re a neo-Luddite living beneath a rock in the woods, the Internet is here to stay. It is a part of what we do and who we are in a very intimate way. So, why wouldn’t it be a part of the characters created on stage? Especially, when the characters talk about it in the play.

From this breakthrough, I fused the idea of a prologue & blog that exists entirely online in blog format. I’m calling it the problog. The aim isn’t viral marketing, as so often is done with big Hollywood films (though, some television shows [Fringe, Heroes] fully embrace transmedia storytelling). The purpose is to be part of the play in a very integral way. This doesn’t mean if audience only attends the play they won’t understand the story. The problog does, however, adds to the audience’s understanding of the characters.

Other theatre is venturing into transmedia storytelling. Most well known was New Paradise Laboratories Fatebook, which was a hit at the Philadelphia Live Arts Festival in 2009. In 2010, Waterwell’s #9 explored how we use technology creating a live video feed of the play in which Twitter users interacted with the production in real time. Currently, Better Left Unsaid is a live play streaming online with audience purchasing a ticket to go to the theater and see the play or paying less to view the online streamed version.

It’s exciting, for theaters are finally embracing the next evolution of live performance by tapping into this medium in fun and creative ways. I’m not suggesting that every play needs Facebook profiles created for each of its characters. What I am encouraging are more playwrights to think of innovative ideas to engage and entertain their audiences. The Internet is a unique, individual experience while still being social.

The problog for Feeder: A Love Story launches on February 15th, and I look forward to seeing how people respond to the story. I hope, like any good yarn, it will invite an audience to join another unique, individual (centuries old) experience while still being social – attending the theatre.

no news day

It’s my birthday, and after the horrible stuff on the news the past couple of days, I’ve been advised to take a “No News Day.” Basically, I’m preventing myself from watching news on T.V. or the internet for the day. Not reading it, either, unless I see catastrophic headline along the lines of 9/11.

It’s been a great day so far. Had breakfast with my love, went shoe shopping and got an awesome new pair of kicks: Came back to the neighborhood, and my sister bought me lunch at a new Thai spot, Pagoda, and dessert (here I am with my nephew at Fortunato Brothers):
Then, I returned home.

I turned on the computer, and I was almost shaking. Tricky when trying to avoid the news. Links are all over Facebook, forget about it when turning on Twitter, and my tabs are all open to various news organizations websites.

I was determined to not consume new news. So, to whom did I turn?

That’s right…the one man who is the news, but isn’t:

The Daily Show With Jon Stewart Mon – Thurs 11p / 10c
PR
www.thedailyshow.com
http://media.mtvnservices.com/mgid:cms:item:comedycentral.com:240956
Daily Show
Full Episodes
Political Humor Spinal Tap Performance

Thanks, Mr. Stewart, for brightening my day, putting it all in perspective, and giving me a taste of the news without actually watching it. You helped make this birthday a happy one.

Tonight, I look forward to continuing the happiness with SUBTERRANEAN, terraNOVA Collective’s monthly variety night. Carlos Andrés Gómez and Rebecca Hart & the Sexy Children play tonight’s event, which is doubling as my birthday party.

Whew. Who’d have thought I’d make it this far?

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