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Le Wilhelm

I went to the memorial of my mentor, Le Wilhelm last night. He died on September 25th, over a month ago. I just haven’t had time to stop and process all that’s happened these past six weeks. It’s been a whirlwind with my kids’ birthdays, school starting again and my own play reading.

I did make it to the hospital in time to sit by his side. I was surprised by how much love and emotion I had for Le, how hard it was to say goodbye, how much I wanted to curl up in his arms and get a hug. For much of my time in New York City, for the past 13 years, Le was my protector…he held me under his wing and gave me encouragement when I needed it the most.

He was an odd find for me in New York City, but again knowing me and the more I hear about Le, I’m not at all surprised. Le was a gift to this world, a gift to me. He was a large man in stature. Geez, how tall was Le? Maybe 6ft-5 and he was, for most of the time I knew him considered to be very large. He later grew thinner from illness, but that’s not how I remember him. He was this great presence, like a king, really. Whether standing on a street corner smoking or sitting in his special chair, drinking and holding court at Zuni’s, he was truly beloved and admired by those who mattered to him.

The summer of 2001 was such a strange time; it was like the pink before the red, before September 11th, before the dread, before things really changed. And for me, it was like the last summer of my youth. I played most of the spring and summer of 2001. I had gotten laid off from my job and had drifted into an uncharted, unknown state. I was definitely wandering; I was searching and finding my artistic self in the big Apple.

Le was from a different era all together. He was probably 54 when I met him, but looked older. He already had that seasoned feel. Somehow, maybe it was the left over food stuck in his beard, or the stains on his untidy shirt.  He lived in New York and had been running a theater for nearly 20 years. He was from Missouri, The Ozarks. He was a larger than life southern man who didn’t give a shit what you thought about him.  He just loved theater and loved to see “the magic” happen. He lived and breathed the stage as if it was his air. He was a prolific, talented writer who created characters who he loved, which of course actors reveled in.  As a director, he chose difficult, interesting plays and as a producer, he enjoyed helping new writers gain confidence (like me). He was an encourager, a friend. He openly hated the elitism that is so much a part of New York theater,  so he created an Off-Off Broadway theater company for the odd balls, like him, like me, I guess.  How one finds their way to Love Creek Productions — is, well, part of the fun — we are all odd balls, aren’t we?

I had been doing this and that all summer long in 2001. I lost my job and instead of getting another one, I spent the summer really fooling around, having no money. I was so so poor that summer. I had been an extra in a movie and on the set, I mentioned to one of the other extras that I wanted to be a playwright. She told me that she was part of a theater company that often produced members’ scripts. So sent an email to Le Wilhelm, the founder and the artistic director of Love Creek Productions. I auditioned for him a week later.

I’ll admit, the day of the audition, I thought the whole thing was strange. There was this old man watching me do my monologue — and then he just cast me in something — right then and there. It was so simple, except that I had to pay $100 to join the company. Uh, okay. I was lured in by getting to act on the stage in New York! Then he read my play and two days later, he told me that  he really liked it and “let’s produce it.” What???

From that day forward I was able to call myself a produced playwright. September 11th happened, I wanted to drop out of the play — two of my actors dropped out — it was a terrible, scary time. Nothing but tears and confusion. But Le pressed me to continue, and unlike some of the folks he worked with, I did it, I carried on. And through that “moment” of courage and perseverance or whatever it was, Le and I formed a very strong bond that would last us until his death just over a month ago.

Le was quite simply one-of-a-kind. He meant so much to so many of us. He was a mentor, a person who it would seem was here to bring people together. It’s like a piece of New York is gone without him here. I am grateful, so so grateful to have known him. Ledirectingmontevideo_front IMG_0848As my friend Jason Nunes said last at the memorial. “We miss you Le Wilhelm. Very much. “

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Just some thoughts about parenting

It’s hard to believe that last year I had a two-year-old who still sucked on her pacifier, slept in a crib, had awful tantrums and wore diapers. I also had an eight-month old baby. Only a year later and they are already so big, so independent; only one in diapers, one who sucks a pacifier and only one in a crib.

Maya, my almost four-year-old talks like a teenager and seems to have such a confident grasp of concepts; and my little one wants to be big. She’s so darn cute and coming right along. She says “Vadi” for water, the Russian word for it. Yup, she’s coming along. This summer, it’s me that is stalled. Without proper time set aside, I lose myself in parenting. I have a marketing client (I do), who I’ve mostly ignored all summer. I have a playwriting career (I do) and in the summer and winter I simply don’t….have…time. Normally when you have a job, it’s a job and there is a set time that you go do that job. For a mom that works from home, who doesn’t have both kids in school or a day care, where do you get this “time?” You beg, borrow, steal…you pay for it. So it’s a lot to figure out. How do I spend the time that I mostly have to pay for? 

And then, during the summers and winters, I have so much less help that there are days and days that pass by where I don’t get a break, a moment of thought to myself, and I just give in to it…to this parenting thing, and I’m okay with that.

I realize I’m not working a normal job (9-5) for a reason and I know why. I don’t have full-time help for several reasons and I know why. The truth is, I am here in this moment flipping through the channels trying to find Olivia because I want to be here…

When you are a parent you have so many moments of “Wow, oh my god…this is amazing….This is so hard…Why am I sweating so much? Do I really have to bend over to gardenfairylillyget that? Oh yeah, you have learned to put on your own jacket….Please don’t jump on that….Break that…Eat that….Don’t talk to me like that!….Why is it raining and I am pushing a double stroller? And then, it’s over – Pre-school…pushing a double stroller…your parenting time, or maybe your life. So you better enjoy every rainy day, every fight, every tear…every cuddle.