Archive for the Legba Category

Learning to walk with the Lwa (the job edition)

Posted in Dreams, Legba, Life Lessons, Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , on February 19, 2017 by cheshirecatman
job_key

© Skypixel | Dreamstime.com – Career and Job Opportunities

If you are a regular reader, you may be familiar with my recurring shoe dreams. Some people have nude-in-public dreams; I have walking-around-with-no-shoes dreams.

I had another one recently in which I was walking around in a truck stop rural area with the girlfriend. I look down and I am stocking-footed. It finally dawned on me that these dreams are largely about stability (and the lack thereof). I don’t know why I did not figure this out sooner. I have weak ankles, so good shoes are paramount to my physical stability. So it’s not too surprising that my recent bout with job instability would trigger a shoe dream.

Just over a year ago, I was laid off from a job of nearly a decade and transitioned smoothly into another job. The new company seemed like a good fit, the job was interesting, and things went well for a while. And then things started going bad. The mundane reason: a long commute (Seattle to Tacoma) meant I was often tired and started falling asleep at work and having job performance issues. My confidence in my work skills took a hard blow. The other reason: a long commute meant little time for much else, including service to the Lwa.

They weren’t happy with me and this became clearer and clearer over time. Whenever my thoughts turned to finding a new job closer to home, things would go better at work. But if I thought, “Well, maybe this will work out fine and I’ll stay for a while,” then I’d start having problems again. When they speak and you don’t listen, things go awry. Eventually enough was enough. So near the end of last year, I started sending out resumes and quickly got a call from a staffing agency, who placed me in a temp-to-hire position with a company that processes legal papers.

The paper-pushing job was super-convenient (a one-bus commute to downtown Seattle), but also a little depressing. Aside from handling legal documents all day long, I was very much a production drone who wasn’t utilizing many of his skills. I really don’t like looking for work and was hoping that this job would work out long-term, but after a brief couple of weeks I could no longer ignore the push to look for something better. And then a playfully written ad on craigslist caught my eye. It was for a graphics-related job in the tech sector.

I was hoping for but did not expect a response, but they responded within a few days and requested a phone screening. Now, I hate the telephone and knew I needed Legba’s help on this one. I lit a candle and asked for his help. And he came through. The interview ended up feeling more like a casual conversation over coffee, and the following Wednesday I found myself over on the Eastside for a group interview.

Legba came through again–I aced it. So much so that my interviewers had no additional questions for me at the end because I’d already answered them. Now, I am a very inconsistent interviewee–whether I interview well or not depends a lot on my mood that day and the demeanor of the people interviewing me. So this was no small feat. I liked the feel of the company–it was energetic, forward-thinking and seemed to value its employees. My interviewers were considerate and followed through whenever they said they would do something. Legba’s hand was evident during our interactions and when I wrote an inspired cover letter and the follow-up correspondence.

The tech company told me they’d make a decision no later than the following Monday. I tried not to become too anxious, but this was a job I cared about, and I knew I’d be disappointed if I wasn’t hired. However, they made me the offer the next day.

That day, prior to the offer, I was returning from my lunch break at the temp job. I stopped in the restroom and set my phone and the book I was reading on the back of the tank. I turned to latch the stall door when I heard a splash. My book and my phone had fallen into the john. I am not really sure how; I thought I’d placed them firmly on the tank.

I immediately snatched them out. I was very glad the phone still worked but the book was damaged. It probably was salvageable, but you can’t really wash a book, so I decided to trash it even though I was in the middle of reading it. It was a Christmas gift. Oh well, I’d replace it at some point.

Shortly after that (like, within an hour), I received the job offer. That made me wonder if the book was claimed by Legba as payment for the job. Later I would call Mambo and ask her opinion, and she said that sometimes happens if you don’t negotiate your deal well. And I realized I hadn’t been specific enough when I petitioned Legba. I liked the book, but I wasn’t too upset. It was a small price to pay, and if the phone had been damaged then I might not have gotten the call in a timely manner, and the job might have been lost. So Legba took the book. I just recently replaced it, but felt it would be a good idea to remember this lesson. So instead of buying an identical new paperback copy, I purchased an older used hardback edition. In this way I don’t feel like I am erasing that event.

After a slightly stressful ten days (mostly due to confidence issues left over from the Tacoma job), I am starting to feel stable again. Also, from a numbers standpoint, this is the 3rd position I’ve had since leaving my last long-term job. Three is my met tet’s number. So I am optimistic I will be here for a while.

Thoughts on the afterlife (Part One in a possible series)

Posted in afterlife, Animals, Dreams, Legba, Meditation, Vodou with tags , , , , , , , , , on November 24, 2016 by cheshirecatman

(This is an informal discussion between myself and one of my sosyete sisters.

I’ve been thinking a lot about death and the afterlife since I saw John Edward.  As my sister has had similar topics on her mind, we decided to discuss publicly. Plus it’s a nice way to close out November, when we honor the dead.)

afterlife

©Arbi Babakhanaians, Dreamstime Stock Photos

Cheshirecatman (CCM): My interest in death started at an early age–probably from fear of losing my mother, then later continued when i became suicidal and wondered what would happen if I did it. It’s since grown beyond both into an interest in what comes after this. I don’t consider it morbid. It’s more fascination and interest in a little-studied aspect of reality.

Shibamistress (SM): My mother would say I have always been interested in the trappings of death: I have always been a collector of bones and skulls and skull imagery. Then, it was just something that appealed to me. But I also began to think of it more when I was suicidal, wondering what it would be like. Since my mother has been suicidal most of her life, I had to deal the idea of death for a long time, and I did not believe, like she seems to, that it was just like “going to sleep.” I started getting interested in other people’s ideas of afterlife, though admittedly, I haven’t read as much as I could (I’m sure you’ve read a lot more than me about it). But I started thinking about it a lot, and like you, not in a morbid way, but with real interest.

CCM: My long interest really piqued when I lost Puck. I was working with a skilled animal communicator both before and after he passed, and he continued to talk to me after he passed, and knew things that happened around me. As regular readers will know, the first time Legba appeared to me he was with Puck.

SM: That is amazing! So how do you envision an afterlife? (I’m so curious about this!)

CCM: Having read or listened to various accounts, it seems somewhat subjective.
I believe the reason for this is because, on that side, it’s much easier to manifest things by thought and energy, so you kind of manifest to some degree what you want. Sylvia Browne saw it as a beautiful place with all Greco Roman architecture. Mine most frequently is some sort of alternate reality Seattle. It’s my city but things aren’t quite the same and landmarks are messed up.

SM: Oh, that’s so interesting! This is sort of a side note, (or perhaps not), but I often have reoccurring dreams that take place in alternate reality cities. Meaning, I have many San Francisco dreams that are not in real SF, but are consistent from dream to dream.

CCM: I have dreams in other cities as well. Browne wrote that a version of everything on this earth exists over there. Maybe. I do think that we might easily manifest places similar to what we are used to, especially when visiting from here.

SM: And I very much agree that it is subjective. I also believe we manifest things in that other world.

CCM: Yes. Browne talked about how you could manifest a home to live in, which makes sense.

SM: Yes! I have done this, based on more reading/discussion about building things on the astral plane rather than looking at it as necessarily the afterlife. But my feeling is that building on the astral plane IS (perhaps) building for the afterlife. So I have constructed a small space that is the same space I use for meditation (as much as I do that) astral journeying, feelings of safety, etc.

CCM: I would agree with that. Death seems like a transition to another plane, and astral travel is about other planes.

SM: I was working on a novel in which the main character dies in the opening chapter, and the rest is about her navigating the afterlife (and also helping her sister who is still alive). I don’t know if I will ever finish the novel, but it really helped me think about the afterlife and how I imagine it. Her first task is to learn how to manifest what she wants, to create a home, even create a world. One of the big points I thought of (not an original thought, but something that intrigues me) is that everyone gets the afterlife they expect, because to some level or another, they are manifesting it. Now if they become adept at that, they can change and reshape things there. If they don’t believe they can do that, though, they may be stuck for a very long time indeed.

CCM: That makes total sense to me. It might also explain why some people experience hell. I’ve been a lucid dreamer since early childhood, and one thing I’ve noticed is that in a dream, when you succumb to fear, the dream literally goes to hell. Or, if I become lucid, I can change the dream from a nightmare to something peaceful. It is about mindset and control though.
I think the dream state teaches us some things about the other side, although I think we have more control there than in dreams. And I don’t think all dreams are necessarily visits to the other side. I do think some are just the brain working stuff out, and some are a mixture.

SM: Yes, that makes sense to me. I am not able to lucid dream (or at least my attempts have not been successful) but I do believe that it is the same skill set, so to speak. And I do also believe this is why some people experience hell. They expect to. In my novel-in-progress, the narrator is able to visit some of other people’s afterlives, and some seem to be living in a classic “heaven” with angels and pearly gates and all that crap, and some are in a traditional hell. some are in their private hells. All would be able to move out of those if they chose to and were aware enough. (The visiting part made sense in a novel and the idea of creating what one expects makes sense to me, but I don’t know what I think about actually visiting other people’s afterlives)

CCM: I am hoping you finish that novel now. I do believe in what I will loosely call the angelic realm, but what I think of as different levels of beings including angels, the lwa, and different deities. One thing I did gather from reading various books is that once you cross over into the next realm, you have more understanding of things but you still don’t know all there is to know.

SM:  It may not be a real novel. It may be just me thinking about the afterlife!

CCM: But you could turn it into novelic form.

SM: Oh yes, on the other side you still don’t know all there is to know! My thought is death is a beginning…and the afterlife, which may or may not end in another incarnation for some, is just the beginning! There is much to learn there too!

CCM: Murry Hope talks about it in terms of time and center points. The “godhead” or what people think of as the one God is at the center, the rest of us are navigating inward to that center. So as we get closer (through transitions to closer dimensions) we gain more of the larger picture.

SM: Oh I like that! That makes a lot of sense!

CCM: So if you have wise guides, they are not God but are closer than you to the center.

SM: There was a writer whose name I can’t recall now who I read a while back. I think he may be Australian. Anyway, he talked about there even being “universities” in the afterlife, where people can learn many many things, and I loved that idea! I also very much agree with the lwa and others closer to god than us and can guide us.

CCM: I think the universities are very possible.

SM:  I’ll have to see if I can dig up my reference too. I believe I wrote it down somewhere.

CCM: Sylvia Browne talked about that a bit too. On the other side, she did not see you as sitting around singing praises to god. People could work in areas they were passionate about, to help people on earth (or other similar worlds). There were vast libraries of knowledge you could visit too.

SM: Yes! I think so too!
I also believe we can take any form we choose there, once we learn how to do it. That is so appealing to me.

CCM: Yes, the physical form would be part of the energy manifestation thing. You could take on a form that matched a former life, or something else. I am often very much a shapeshifter in my dreams.

SM: In my writing, I had a scene where my narrator goes to a school to learn and encounters a black jaguar, and asks how the jaguar learned to take animal form, and the jaguar says rather huffily that he has never incarnated as a human! *lol*

CCM: Smart cat, lol.

SM: And the shapeshifter dreams are the best! I don’t think they are entirely dreams…perhaps memories….

CCM: Yes, memories. I am probably dumping human form after this, but who knows how I will feel when I get there. You also have the opportunity to be an incarnated person’s spirit guide, which i think could be rewarding and aggravating. So I could see briefly adopting human form if working with a human. They freak out kinda easily lol.

SM: Oh yes! That makes sense! I was thinking that perhaps my character might work herself up to doing that kind of work or working as a psychopomp, so I was thinking something similar.

CCM: You seriously need to write that book. I probably am gonna bother you about it now.

SM:   Here’s something relatively new. I’ve been thinking on this topic, but it is not all clear to me yet. See what you think. So often I feel as if I am separated from something so close to me, so important, it is stronger than any human bond. And I miss it. And I thought about how when I die, perhaps there is a sort of soulmate I will finally meet in that world. Then I started thinking about Vodou and our two souls. What if we somehow are just meeting another part of ourselves there? A part that did not incarnate with us? And that is the longing that some of us feel?
Or perhaps it’s like Freda, longing for a closer connection with the divine? Who knows. But the two souls things started me thinking.

CCM: There are theories that we live simultaneously in different dimensions or time zones, even though we are only aware of one during our waking hours or during normal consciousness. So part of you (some might say your higher self or possibly your future self) is literally missing from normal conscious life.
I have gone through various beliefs about soul mates and/or twin souls and have not exactly come to a conclusion. I will say that soul mates of that sort do not always incarnate with us. so that is entirely possible.

SM: That’s one way I thought of it too.

CCM: I am thinking mine is Puck, as his loss affected me like no other in this life. The main thing I want when I leave this life is to reunite with him. I know some will poo poo me feeling that way about someone who isn’t human, but I poo poo that sort of limited thinking. I am not sure Puck is “just a cat” even though that is what he incarnated as.

SM: Makes total sense to me. Puck’s soul wanted to be with you, even if it was in the shorter life as a cat. And you will meet again, and have no doubt been with each other for a very very long time indeed in one form or another.

(This is part of a planned ongoing series about death and the afterlife. To be continued.)

Ask and receive, in which the Lwa work with what is already around you

Posted in Legba, lwas, Vodou with tags , , , , on July 26, 2015 by cheshirecatman

I had the opportunity to sign up for an online class related to my various spiritual practices. I really wanted to take this class, and it was being offered at 1/3 of the usual price. I still could not really afford it and hesitated, knowing that it would make finances very tight for the next couple of weeks, and that I would have to postpone some bills. With a resigned sigh, I said to Legba, “If you think it would be good for me to take this class, any financial help would be appreciated.” The discounted price was only offered for a very limited time and I was up against the deadline, so I took the plunge and registered for the class. This was last Saturday (July 18). That same day we had a grocery delivery scheduled.

Now, Anne and I are city dwellers, and have not owned a car for over a decade. To reduce trips to the grocery store (and to avoid having to haul heavy items like cat litter on the bus), we regularly use a grocery delivery service. We select a delivery time, usually in the evenings or on a weekend. Most of the time the service delivers on schedule, and even when they are late, they are good about letting us know. In the 3 or so years we’ve been using them, I’ve only had to call them about late delivery a handful of times.

Grocery expenses add up quickly, and last weekend was one of the larger orders we’ve placed (over $200). So, the scheduled delivery window came and went, and about 15 minutes afterwards, I phoned the company. The customer service rep was very courteous and told me that they had been having a lot of delays that morning. She briefly put me hold while she tried to contact the delivery driver. When she was unable to reach him, she apologized and said that she would immediately refund our order. She then said that if the driver did show up we could keep the groceries free of charge.

What? I was kind of floored. Our deliveries have been late before, and I’ve never been offered a full refund. The downside: if the groceries failed to show up, then Anne and I would need to go shopping that day and I would be either hauling cat litter on the bus or ordering from another delivery service. I was really keeping my fingers crossed that the delivery showed up.

And it did, only about 30 minutes late. Which was not a big deal to me, and I would have been fine without a refund. We just wanted our stuff. As it turned out, we got over $200 worth of groceries for free, which was wonderful and kind of weird.

And then I remembered my comment to Legba. And realized that my share of the groceries came up to around $135, which was about the same amount of money that I was lacking to pay for the class and my bills. Whoa.

I also thought about how he brought about this windfall using situations that were already at play in my life. Not that the Lwa can’t bring results from unexpected sources, but I think they are practical and have no qualms about working with the tools most readily available.

So Saturday evening, I lit candles and thanked Papa. Ayibobo.

Legba creates my vision

Posted in Agwe, Art, La Sirene, Legba, Religion, Ritual, Vodou with tags , , , , , , , , , on May 17, 2015 by cheshirecatman

Legba walkingI am coming up on the first anniversary of my Kanzo with Sosyete du Marche. Thus it seems like an appropriate time to reflect on the past year and what has (and has not) changed about me and my life.

Outwardly, there is not a whole lot of visible change. I am still at the same job. I live in the same place, in the same area of town. I haven’t gotten a spiffy new haircut nor remodeled my home.

Not all of my bad habits have changed. I still stay up too late on weekends, and have a tendency to procrastinate. I have an impatient streak, but it’s one that I continue to mostly control. I can be messy when I get busy or tired, especially when facing art deadlines. I still am fascinated with the afterlife, although in a much more positive way than I have been in the past.

What has changed outwardly is the official acquisition of my new family, the Sosyete. This is no small thing for me—my birth mother crossed over nearly three decades ago, I never knew my father and the one living relative I do know is permanently estranged. Now I have parents and many siblings I can turn to for love, advice and support. I took great delight in sending my initiatory mother a small Mother’s Day gift, something I have not been able to enjoy for many years.

So what about the less-obvious changes?

Many times I thought about writing this post but kept putting it off, uncertain whether there had been any changes interesting enough to discuss here. Apparently the changes kind of crept up on me. Some people’s experiences are more dramatic and obvious, but the majority of mine tend to be more subtle. My Lwa often speak softly, and in the language of images.

In March and early April I was engrossed in my usual springtime art frenzy, preparing to participate in a local sci fi/fantasy convention’s art show and another show at a local shop. I had quite a few pieces planned that were Vodou-related, including two sculptures of Legba, La Siren, La Balenn and Agwe, whom I’ve never sculpted before.

The first Legba I finished this spring was the Old Man walking along a road with one of his dogs, although I sculpted both Legba faces at the same time, and was very happy with them. This was a sharp contrast from the struggles I sometimes have with faces, which can result in me becoming so frustrated that I will toss them in the garbage and begin anew. I was particularly pleased that both of the faces resembled Legba as he appeared in one of my dreams.

Sculpting clothing is not always super easy for me, yet when I worked on his jacket and pants, I kept having what artists call “happy accidents”—my hand would move and create a fold or movement of the fabric that was unplanned, but looked good. Now, normally, I would never consider putting one of my own pieces on my altars, because I would sit there and obsess over the flaws and shortcomings. This time, however, I was so happy with the completed piece that I thought about keeping him for my altar if he didn’t sell at the convention. Also finished for the convention was a La Balenn piece whose face turned out unusually lovely. I received a lot of compliments on both of them when I showed them to friends.

La Balenn did not sell at the convention, but Legba sold immediately after to a couple of friends who saw him in the art show there. (They tried to buy him at the show, but due to a change in the art show hours, they were not able to purchase him before it closed.) It makes me smile to think of Legba in their home.

Then my focus shifted to finishing the pieces for the shop show. I decided to do a Native La Siren, as that is how she appeared to me the one time that I saw her. I was not sure exactly how to sculpt Agwe, so I had a loose plan to create him as a merman wearing an admiral’s jacket. However, he had other things in mind. I kept receiving flashes of images in my head, and realized that yes, he did want to be portrayed as a merman, but rather than the uniform he opted to have coral extruding from his back and crowning his head. Although I was working on my pieces up to the last minute, I never really got stressed out. It seemed that every time I got stuck on something, the answer would pop into my head and I was able to move on. Sometimes my hands felt guided, to the point that I don’t feel that I can take all of the credit for the way the art turned out. It was more of a collaboration between the Lwa and me.

When Agwe was completed, he also received many compliments. During the artist opening reception, one of my regular buyers whom I had never met before came in and bought the entire marine Lwa set (La Siren, La Balenn and Agwe). He wanted the seated Legba piece I had there too, but a friend had already spoken for it, so this gentleman commissioned a new one. (I have to smile when I think of Legba and the 3 marine Lwa displayed in his home; I won’t be surprised if they all start showing up there.) Another previous buyer whom I had never met came in and purchased a Sekhmet wall piece of mine. During the following weeks when my art was on display, a couple of local Santeria folks saw Agwe and loved him so much that they commissioned one like it.

Overall, this is probably the most successful art show I’ve had to date, as far as sales are concerned. I reflected back on the nom vayan (“valiant name”) that my initiatory mother gave me at my batem (“baptism”). It translates into “Legba creates my vision,” and he certainly has outdone himself this time.

If you haven’t already read it, my lovely initiatory mother has written a wonderful piece on magickal names in Vodou, which explains them better than I can here. All’s I can say is it certainly worked for me! Honor to her, Papa and the Lwa. Ayibobo!

Where there’s smoke there’s fire….or is it smoke and mirrors?

Posted in Legba, Life Lessons on November 16, 2014 by cheshirecatman

Today I finally met two friends whom I’ve been corresponding with over social media for a couple of years now. It went really well, which I expected.

Usually when I meet someone in person for the first time, I am a little nervous, but today that was not the case. We interacted as though we’d hung out together many times before. I’ve really begun paying attention to when I feel completely relaxed around someone; it often indicates a long-term relationship. I felt this quite strongly the first time I visited Sosyete du Marche, for example. And when I went through Kanzo, I felt this way about my sisters in the djevo.

I think one of the reasons I was not nervous today is because these two friends have experienced some serious hardship for several years now, so I wasn’t concerned that they were going to be judgmental about my appearance or any other superficial thing. And part of it was that they are acutely aware of what it’s like to be misjudged, which brings me to the point of this post.

That old cliché: “Where’s there’s smoke, there’s fire.” Sometimes this is true, but if you are going to judge someone by rumors and gossip, you really need to take notice of who is talking about them.  Is this person speaking from first-hand experience? If not, then who knows how much the information has mutated along the way? And regardless of whether the info is first, second, or third-hand, does the person who is passing along the info have an ulterior motive? Ulterior motives may or may not be obvious–you may be hearing one side of a personal disagreement or you may be hearing exaggerations or outright lies based on someone’s personal dislike of someone–a  dislike that could be based on something as stupid as discrimination of one type or another. Online stalking and bullying have really gotten out of hand and I don’t have a very high opinion of people who spend a lot of time engaging in such activity.

“But I heard this from someone I know. I trust their judgment.” This is a tricky one, and here’s the thing. Just because you know someone and trust them does not mean that the person is immune to believing gossip or that they don’t have ulterior motives. They’re flawed people just like the rest of us.

I heard some pretty harsh things about my friends during the early days of our correspondence, and all I can say is I am SO glad I followed my own instincts. I think Legba had a part in this as well, and has now cleared the way for them to come to Washington.

Ayibobo, Papa!

An interview with playwright Shawn C. Harris

Posted in Art, Legba with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on March 30, 2014 by cheshirecatman

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On occasion, I like to feature artists, writers, filmmakers and other creative people on this blog. Today’s focus is on theatre.

Shawn C. Harris is a playwright from Richmond, VA who has written, developed, and produced plays in NYC’s indie theatre scene. A passionate advocate for improving diversity in theatre, her works consistently feature strong roles for women, people of color, and LGBTQ people.

Shawn’s plays include ENCANTA, TULPA, OR ANNE&ME, THE ROSE KNIGHT, and a variety of short pieces. Her work has been featured at The Cell Theatre’s Blackboard Plays reading series and WOW Cafe Theatre.
Since 2008, she has been writing essays and sharing resources about theatre, social justice, and diversity on her blog, Love’s Labors Lost.

In 2010, Shawn founded Crossroads Theatre Project to develop plays that challenge assumptions about what African diaspora theatre is and what it can be. Through Crossroads Theatre Project, Shawn’s full-length play, TULPA, OR ANNE&ME, received its world premiere at the 3rd annual Planet Connections Theatre Festivity.

Crossroads Theatre Project is currently developing her next play, ENCANTA, for production.

Thanks for being here, Shawn. In one of our conversations, you mentioned that the Crossroads Theatre Project was named after Eshu/Legba/Ellegua. Can you tell us a little bit about that? It seems fitting, Legba being the lwa of communications, among other things.

The way I make sense of it is that Eshu builds connections and exchanges between people, places, words, realities, and ideas. This can make him complex and sometimes paradoxical. Sometimes helping, sometimes harming. Sometimes fun, sometimes terrifying. I think that many times people simplify that by calling him a trickster, but I prefer to think of him as a guide into new ways of perceiving and understanding. Simply by being what he is, he challenges fixed notions of identity and perception.

It is likewise with Black identity. Black people, and therefore Black theatre, are not just one thing. Blackness is often seen as monolithic, so that tends to mean that people often simplify what Black humanity, and therefore Black art, is or can be about.

Crossroads Theatre Project is my way of giving space to the spirit of what Eshu represents while also rooting it in Blackness and in the intersections of Blackness and other identities.

I really love the way you just described him. You’ve obviously done a fair amount of research into African Traditional Religions. Is there one particular branch that interests you more than others, and do you see yourself one day traveling down that path?

I’ve committed to another path, but one of the things I wish to bring to my current practice is a sensibility rooted in African spirituality such as diunital cognition.

Let’s talk about your latest project, “Encanta.” I was trying to think of how to describe it and came up with romantic fantasy comedy with a touch of swashbuckler. How would you describe it? It doesn’t fit neatly into one category.

“Romantic fantasy” is a good way to describe it. I don’t particularly worry about how to label it genre-wise. I prefer to say what the play is about and let that speak for itself. Once people get to the part where the play is about a pirate and a sorceress falling in love, I hope it’s pretty obvious that I’m not dealing with a slice-of-life drama.

I love the humor throughout the script, even during the more dangerous scenes. Was it originally conceived that way or did you ever consider writing it as straight drama?

It was originally conceived to be lighthearted and funny.

At the beginning of the script, you mention that all parts can be played by trans and genderqueer people. I take it you put that right up front to keep that prominent in any potential director’s mind?

I wrote these characters so that trans and genderqueer people could play them, so that trans and genderqueer people can imagine themselves in these roles. A director grasping that point was a secondary, but still important, consideration.

For the record, it was not a Herculean task to make these roles inclusive of trans and genderqueer people. It wasn’t even difficult. So anyone claiming that it’s oh so hard to write roles for trans and genderqueer people is making excuses.

In your scene descriptions, you cast we the audience as part of the crowd on the street, or neighbors across the street, etc. We are participants in the world of the play. Is there a nonstandard way you visualize producing this play? Would you prefer to produce it in, say, a large room rather than the standard stage which separates audience from the cast? What inspired you to do this?

I don’t see it working well with a proscenium stage. I’d prefer something a lot more porous that combines the art with, say, commerce. A black box theatre can do that, but I would honestly prefer to stage this play outdoors in the midst of some arts and crafts fair or something.

Natural elements play a key role in some scenes. How do you visualize presenting those in your play, especially if you are in an outdoor venue? Would you use props, rely on dialog, or some combination of both?

There are ways to do it, but that’s the director’s job. It won’t work the same way it does in film, where the camera tells you everything. On stage, you’d have to use your imagination more actively.

One of the things I love about theatre is that the power of suggestion is much more potent. So you can take mundane objects like, say, a bath towel, and sort of transform them into other things. That same bath towel can be a superhero cape, a wig of long hair, a baby wrapped in a bundle, or something else entirely.

I really like the way romance and love is presented in this script. Women love women, men love men, and it’s just the way it is without any social stigma. The woman/man combo is not presented as the norm. Does your desire to contribute to a more accepting world affect the type of setting in your work (i.e., fantasy rather than contemporary)?

Not consciously. I just wanted fun, romance, and magic because I’m interested in that. I wanted something that came from my own experience and things I’m interested in without having to justify it.

I was far more deliberate about all the characters being Latino and Afro-Latino and opening all these roles to trans and genderqueer people.

You probably get this question all the time, but what advice would you give aspiring playwrights and other creative folks, especially those who are members of marginalized groups?

I don’t like giving advice. I find that most people have more wisdom about their situation than I ever could. But one piece of advice that has worked for me is to never take on debt to make theatre.

If you would like to read more from Shawn, check out her blog Love’s Labors Lost.

 

 

Bah, American Horror Story

Posted in Legba, Movies and Media, Vodou with tags , , , on January 8, 2014 by cheshirecatman
Is this how you visualize Legba? Yeah, didn't think so.

Is this how you visualize Legba? Yeah, didn’t think so.

With each season, “American Horror Story” has become more of a clusterfuck. I guess I should not be surprised, producer Ryan Murphy does not have a good track record regarding quality television and respect for diverse people and cultures. If you don’t think I’m serious, guess which of the young witches were killed off first? You got it: the black one and then the disabled one. Because, of course neither could be the supreme. You need a typical white girl for that.

The premiere episode this season was particularly horrible, with footage of the torture and mutilation of black bodies for the purpose of making a villain seem more villainous (which sort of makes sense until said villain is played off as sympathetic later). Tonight’s episode, while featuring Stevie Nicks (who still can move me to tears with her music), managed to insult none other than Papa Legba, who is portrayed as some weird cross between Baron Samedi and Satan. Since when did Legba ever purchase souls? Yeah, there’s the whole devil-in-the-crossroads Robert Johnson story, but if one views that story with some understanding of Voodoo, one might interpret it not as Johnson selling his soul but rather as him making an offering to the lwa.

While Angela Bassett is, as always, magnificent, this show receives an F- for its portrayal of Voodoo as of tonight.