Open your Eyes!!! Yes!

I am loving the Oculus Go Commercial.

Says it all 🙂

 

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Still the Greatest!!!

Today, I honor two men! Real men!

It began with me seeking out a particular song from the 70’s that had popped into my head while I was working. One song led to another and then another…and you know how it is, before too long I found myself “YouTube Surfing”.

And then I stumbled across the clip below, which felt like water to a thirsty plant. my heart opened up just like the leaves of the freshly watered plant unfurl.

Always a fan of Billy Crystal, I thought it might be funny to see him imitate Mohammad Ali. But I was in for a much bigger treat.

Muhammad Ali and Billy Crystal

Billy Crystal draws us in with a beautifully intimate story of his relationship with The Champ. He makes us laugh as he jests about fun times with Ali, he makes us cry as he tells stories from the Civil Rights movement and the treatment Mohammad Ali had to endure.

But most of all, he makes us glow with pride. Pride that we can say we lived when these two greats lived. Pride to know that humans do have it in them to do good for each other.

Billy Crystal, from a Long Island Jewish family that supported Black musicians when others would not. Billy Crystal, who started the Peace through the Performing Arts Program at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem. A program that brings Arab, Palestinian and Jewish artist together in peaceful performance. Hear, Hear, Billy!!! And let’s not forget Comic Relief which he started with Robin Williams and Whoopi Goldberg to raise money for the Homeless across America (Boy, do we need that now)

And then, there is Mohammad Ali…The greatest of all time!

Mohammad Ali was famous for his trash talk and vanity, but that was all fun and entertainment. The real man, was not afraid to speak his Truth and do what he believed was Right. He cared about others and not just others of his own kind. He cared about humanity.

Stripped of his titles and even his permission to fight, still he stood his ground against injustices and against war.

How many of us do that anymore?

We are more concerned about our followership and our likes than we are about the welfare of our fellow man. Trash talk and vanity still gets many of us on the front page, but after all the talk, there is little else.

Changing the world takes bravery, takes courage, takes perseverance against the odds.

It is never easy, and it is always swimming against the current. But for all the lives you touch on the way, it is SO worth it!!

And just so you know…you do not have to be a world class boxing champion or a famous comedian to make a difference, a change or a statement. You can be anyone, your job can be anything….you just need to believe in your Truth and put your all behind it.

Stand up and speak your Truth and don’t apologize for it.

There are people in your building, on your street, in your town, just waiting for you. Yes, YOU!

Mohammad Ali was exemplary of what The Woman Hood stands for. He crossed cultures and religions, stood for all people, and accepted everyone as his brethren.

All of us like that = Peace on Earth

It is not impossible! I believe it whole heartedly!

Enjoy this clip and Be Inspired!

 

 

#TonyDreaming – It is never too late!!!

For my last post on the 2018 Tony Awards, I want to congratulate Glenda Jackson who took home the Tony for Best Actress in a Play for Edward Albee‘s Three Tall Women.

Glenda Jackson is the amazing force of nature kind of woman I love to tell stories about. Her talent is obviously undeniable, she studied at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Arts in London on a scholarship. Here is a woman who found her calling and pursued it with full passion, performing a myriad of wonderful and meaty roles to much critical acclaim, even portraying a delusional pirate captain who hijacks the Muppet Show (Boy, did I use to love that show!)

And then, in the middle of all that success, she retired from acting and went into POLITICS!!! She stood for elections to the House of Commons in 1992 and became the Labour Party Member of Parliament for Hampstead and Kilburn, a position she remained very active in for 23 solid years.

Her political career at an end, since she felt she was getting along in years and someone else should take a turn, she returned to the stage at the age of 80!!! And what was her acclaimed returning role? Not ‘the old woman’ or ‘one of the three witches’ or anything like that. No, it was the title role of Shakespeare’s King Lear at the Old Vic Theatre in London. (Ok, so there was one old lady role before this one, but still!!!) How is that for courage and fearlessness? That is Amazing!!

If you are any where near Broadway in the Spring of 2019, she will be reprising her role of King Lear on Broadway.

So here is what I want you to take away from this:

  1. Know your passion and give it all you’ve got. Throw your whole self in!
  2. Be Fearless! Don’t listen to those who will tell you it can’t be done, or that you are wrong or that you are crazy. Just do it anyway. What have you got to lose?
  3. It is NEVER too late. Never too late to start something new. Never to late to make a change. Never too late to start afresh. As long as there is life in you, YOU CAN DO IT! And even if you only get a little time out of it….just think how good you will feel living your purpose for that time. It will make up for all the time you think you have lost…but quick note: that time was not lost…it was what brought you to where you are 😉 (Oh, and if your dream to be a working actor, it’s not too late for that either. If there is not a role for you, create one!)

It is my humble prayer for you tonight, that you find bravery within yourself, that you be fearless, be true to yourselves…

That you be inspired and then be inspiring!

Just like Glenda Jackson.

#TonyDreaming – Cultural Understanding

And still on my soapbox fueled by the Tony Awards; the winning sweep of the musical, “The Band’s Visit” brings tears of joy to my eyes as it sends a strong message of cultural inclusion to the whole world.

I think spreading the message of cultural understanding is indeed my purpose. I am extremely passionate about it and it consumes my heart.

I was born into this state of being. My mother was East German, my father was a Nigerian – not mixed race, but mixed tribes. I grew up in Lagos, Nigeria, where Muslims and Christians lived side by side. Our neighbor was a wealthy Muslim who built himself a Mosque right there in his compound. So we were awakened by the Imam’s call every morning at 5am without fail. Lagos is like New York in its way of being a cultural melting pot – every Nigerian tribe is represented. ‘Foreigners’ from all over Africa as well as Lebanese, Chinese, Indians, Pakistanis, Israelis, every kind of European, Americans and more.

I have known what it is like to be an outsider all my life, and concurrently I have known what it is like to be and insider all my life.

Not just from my parents’ leading, but in my own heart, I have always loved to know other cultures, learn about other histories, languages, customs and religions. I have attended and taken part in rituals, chants and prayers in Churches, Mosques, Buddhist temples, Hare Krishna temples and traditional Yoruba religious gatherings.

I honestly believe that if we just open our hearts and minds, we will find that there is beauty in everything and everyone. We do not all have to agree or be the same. We just have to understand each other and accept each other as we are.

Ari’el’s Stachel’s acceptance speech moved me to tears. He spoke from my heart. I too, for different reasons and in different situations have pretended not to be what/who I am. The human instinct for survival makes us do what we feel we must. Of course in times past and in some parts of the world still today, “survival” is literal…it is life or death. For Ari’el, it may have been about getting cast in a certain role, or for me, it was sometimes about avoiding certain cultural stereotypical responses. What ever the reason…it is still a sense of survival.

Ari’el made a brave and beautiful, real and poignant speech, that I am certain many people can understand and identify with.

Wow!!! Love it!!!

Then, there was Tony Shalhoub.

Hey, listen, when I hear the name Tony Shalhoub, I think Monk!

And I never knew he was Lebanese. Who knew!!

This was another important acceptance speech which is so opportune and affecting at this time in our history. He speaks of the much debated subject of Immigration.

Again, I can identify. I am myself an immigrant in America, albeit I landed at JFK and not Ellis Island. But an immigrant none the less. And though my experiences may not have been as dramatic or intense as they may have been back in those days, as far as ‘modern immigration’ goes, I have seen in others and have experienced first hand the struggles, determination and resourcefulness that Tony is talking about. And he is right, “May we, the descendants of immigrants, never lose sight of what they taught us.” And let us always remember that for the most part, we are ALL descendants of immigrants, no matter how they arrived here.

To top the night off, The Band’s Visit took home the Award for Best Musical.

Producer Orin Wolf accepted the award and gave yet one more necessary speech. “…in the end, we are all far more alike that different…”

And ain’t it the Truth?!?!

Let us open our hearts and learn something new about someone “different” today and every day following.

Let us be and remain Inspired!

The Original Film version of The Band’s Visit is available on Amazon.com HERE

 

 

#TonyDreaming – Keep the Arts Alive

Still on my soapbox about the importance of Art Education, here is a closer focus on the presentation of the 2018 Excellence in Theatre Education Award winner to Melody Herzfeld, a drama teacher at the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, who hid 65 children in her classroom while an expelled student went on a shooting rampage through the school, killing 14 students and 3 faculty members and injuring numerous others.

I feel she totally deserved this recognition and her acceptance speech sealed the deal. She clearly put into perspective the importance of Arts in Schools.

 

Her own students went on to perform an excellent and moving rendition of Seasons of Love from the musical, Rent.

It was a worthy recognition and moment of triumph but as Melody said in this TIME magazine article; “If we could just go back to February 13 and be the normal, everyday people that we were, we’d give it up in a heartbeat,” she said. “There’s nothing that can replace what we had on that day.”

Be Inspired!

 

 

#TonyDreaming – 100 Years American Theatre Wing

72nd_Tony_Awards_poster

A little late to the party, but never the less, I thoroughly enjoyed the Tony Awards Ceremony which aired on June 10, 2018. During the show, viewers at home were encouraged to send in pictures of themselves as Tony hopefuls to #TonyDreaming. I do not have any pictures of my Tony Hopeful performances so instead, I will use the hashtag as the title for this series of Tony posts.

Tonys Josh and Sara

There were are number of impressions that sank deep with me at the 72nd Tony Awards, from the performance of the hosts, Sara Bareilles and Josh Groban, both of whom I admire; to the numerous successes of The Band’s Visit and the accompanying heartfelt acceptance speeches; the lifetime achievement celebration of my favorite musical composer, Andrew Lloyd Webber; the beautiful performance by the drama department from the Parkland High School in Florida and the presentation made to their teacher; and topping it all off, the celebration of the American Theatre Wing’s 100 years.

I was born with a passion for Theatre. The Tonys did not air in Nigeria when I was growing up, but I have watched every one since moving to the United States and during the time that I worked in the Theatre, it was a wonderful time shared with others in the same profession with the same passion.

Alas, life took me out of the Theatre and into Corporate America, but I have never been far away and the dream is still very much alive #TonyDreaming  😉

Anyway, I say all that to say that even though I was so passionate about the Theatre, I never knew the history of the Tonys and the American Theatre Wing. I mean…I thought TONY was an acronym for something like Theatre of New York?? Hey, it could work!

Shock and outrage!!!

What a delight to know that back in 1917 it was a group of seven suffragettes….yes, WOMEN who founded the Stage Women’s War Relief to organize charitable giving in support of the war effort.

Founders_of_Stage_Women's_War_Relief

Its founders, led by playwright and director Rachel Crothers, included the actress and playwright Louise Closser Hale and actresses Dorothy Donnelly, Josephine Hull, Minnie Dupree, Elizabeth Tyree and Louise Drew.

This moment in 1917 sealed the fate of the American theatre community, uniting it with a new vision of patriotism, born out of the performing arts. The organization established workrooms for sewing uniforms and other garments (with total output totaling 1,863,645 articles), set up clothing and food collection centers, sold Liberty Bonds, and opened a canteen on Broadway for servicemen. It also presented benefit performances to raise money, including some held in a temporary “Liberty Theater” built outside the New York Public Library. In total, the group raised nearly $7,000,000 for the war effort.

At the beginning of the Second World War in 1939, Crothers reestablished the Stage Women’s War Relief as a branch of the British War Relief Society. The revived organization’s members included Mary Antoinette “Tony” Perry, Helen Hayes, Lynn Fontaine, and Tallulah Bankhead. They began fundraising and organizing clothing donations for European refugees. In 1941, with the entry of the United States into the war, the organization was renamed The American Theatre Wing of the Allied War Relief and shifted its focus to the American war effort.

Antoinette_Perry

The Wing went on to establish the Stage Door Canteen which served soldiers through theatrical entertainment. The Wing donated $75,000 dollars to the USO to inaugurate drama as legitimate entertainment for troops overseas while sparking excitement for theatre back home.

When the war ended, American Theatre Wing began to focus on education and the advancement of theatre in service of community. The American Theatre Wing Professional School, founded by Antoinette Perry, was formed.

Antoinette “Tony” Perry passed away in 1946 due to a heart attack one day after her 58th birthday. One year later, an award was eponymously named in honor of her heroic work for the American theatre community, and the first Tony was granted.

Tony Perry

Today, the Tony Awards remain the highest honor in American theatre, commanding theatre’s recognition as a timelessly relevant art form for advancing national culture and personal human experience.

Today, I hail the women who began this effort; I hail Antoinette Perry who took it to the next level and I hail everyone who has contributed to continuing this very important effort.

The Arts are essential to our very survival.

Art and Creativity are our very nature, our being!

Yet every year more funds are cut from Art education in America. This is a HUGE mistake and I am ever grateful for all the initiatives that defy this movement and stand strong in the name of the Arts.

The Arts is the truest way in which we can learn to understand each other.

Whether you are singing a song in a language other than your own, portraying a character that is completely different than yourself, or reading a book which takes you into a world otherwise unknown to you.

The purpose of The Woman Hood to promote understanding between women of different cultures, backgrounds and experiences and I now find that The American Theatre Wing (founded by women) “has spent a century using theatre to advance human experience, empathy and cultural growth”….the same darned thing! I love it!!!

And I am thinking we are on the right track here!

Keep Art Alive and Be Inspired!

Information source: American Theatre Wing History

Tony

 

A lesson in Gratitude – The Breadwinner

The Breadwinner is a beautiful story written by Deborah Ellis as a book series which was made into an Oscar nominated animated film.

I just saw this film last night and felt that I needed to share.

Set in Kabul, Afghanistan, ‘The Breadwinner’ is a very poignant story reminding us of just how good most of us have it and how much we take for granted.

I watched it with my young sons and gave them the usual lecture of “See? You complain about chores, but look what other children in the world have to do!!! A whole family living in one room – while you complain about sharing a bunk bed; Not enough food – while you whine about the food on the table because you would rather eat McDonald’s; Living in fear with an on-going war and nowhere to escape to – while you mope around complaining because we have to go to basketball practice or you don’t feel like going outside today, would rather stay in and play video games; Children have to work for a living and are denied schooling – while you complain about homework and school and a whole myriad of other insignificant things that you can only complain about because you have it too easy.”

Yes, this is a great film for teaching kids gratitude.

But of course, the story spoke to me specifically as a woman! To be reminded that there are little girls in the world who will never be given a choice in how they live their lives, who have to pretend to be boys just to be able to go out on the street, who are in danger of being beaten because they have not followed certain rules dictated by men. This touches me deeply.

Many of us live life so freely, we rarely spare a thought for the women who still now, in many parts of the world, have no freedom of choice and are suffering.

We may complain about our politicians being pro- or anti- choice. But that is just ONE choice of so many. These women have NONE.

I speak of teaching our children gratitude, but we should learn this lesson too. Be Grateful…and Help!

One way to help is to purchase the book series because all royalties go to Parvana’s Fund/Canadian Women for Women in Afghanistan which supports education projects for Afghan women and children.

The Breadwinner Book series can be purchased at:

breadwinner

https://www.amazon.com/gp/bookseries/B00CKCVOMY/ref=dp_st_1554987652

The film is available on Netflix, YouTube and Google Play.

I highly recommend this film and the Book Series even more.

Enjoy and Be Inspired!