Tag Archives: expression

Writing as Passion and as Architecture.

After my last blog post spouting writing advice, and the appreciative responses I got…I am inspired to share another bit of writing advice I have recently given in hopes that it might help writers out there.  Or anyone who wants to express themselves creatively.

Recently a new friend asked me if I thought a person could have a blog and write about their passions and thoughts and life without being a “real writer.” She’s concerned that her words don’t always come out on the page the way she’d like.  Still she is compelled to write and wanted to know what I had to say about it. My knee-jerk reaction to this sort of question is usually an across-the-board YES! Express yourself! Who cares if it’s not perfect! But my response to her sort of surprised me. In hopes that I do not discourage ANYONE out there who loves to write to get those words down…here’s what a bit of a different side of me had to say:

We could talk and talk about this subject. I guess I agree with Francine Prose: “A well-made sentence transcends time and genre.” I suppose it depends on whether or not you want to attempt to acheive that. Regardless, I think that we need to honor our readers: if the reader is going to invest the time and money and potential emotional energy into our writing, we need to be architects and find that intersection of heart and mind and craft that is writing. I go back and re-read Strunk and White yearly (“The Elements of Style”) just to make sure I haven’t gone off course. I had a bear of an English teacher in high school who would give us an F if we used the passive tense “the dog was walked by me” vs. “I walked the dog.” He docked us big time for what he called “Bombast” and “Deadwood” —extra words, flourish, adverbs etc. I learned early on how to build a sentence without really knowing it was happening and I am most grateful for that.

That said, who cares about a well-built sentence if it’s not alive? If you can’t feel its pulse or hear it sing? That’s what I try to help people with on my writing retreats. I really care about this. For me, it comes down to timing and word play. And authority. And compassion. And responsibility. And intention. When I’m in the hands of a writer who has those things in spades, I am in heaven. And that’s where I want my readers to be. Tall order, but it’s my life’s passion.

It’s the Devil’s-advocate (and I realize, sort of obnoxious) question I ask of my singer/songwriter friend who can’t read music but considers himself a professional musician.  ”Are you really a professional if you don’t know the language of your art?”

He counters with the old “Jagger can’t read music. Most famous rock stars, in fact, can’t read music.” He argues that he does know the language of his art. And it’s true– the language of his music is deep and beautiful. But there is something stubborn in me that wants to insist that language is not language if it can’t be written down, and when it’s written down there are certain rights and wrongs that make it a language that can be spoken long after he’s dead and by people in other countries and cultures.

Even if he gets someone else to write it down for him, wouldn’t it serve him to be able to read music found in an archive somewhere from hundreds of years ago? Don’t we have some sort of responsibility to keep languages alive? I fear this with script. They’re not teaching it in schools as much any more. How are the next generations going to be able to read the letters and documents of our Founding Fathers, for instance? And for that matter, is our language going to turn into: “R U probs going 2 the dance?”

My singer/songwriter friend says he’s not interested in that— he doesn’t need to be Bach. Sometimes he wins me over. But the truth is…maybe there’s something in me that…well, wants to be Bach. LOL.

In any case, art is made to inspire its perceiver to laugh and play and heal and grieve and know they’re not alone. (and its creator too.) So…who really cares at the end of the day about the precision of the language. It’s all about expression. And it helps us to make sense of this beautiful and heartbreaking planet. So do what you do on the page, and if you want to become more of an architect, go back to Strunk and White. If not, just try to sing your song.

p.s.  I’m well-aware that I write in in-complete sentences from time to time and sometimes a lot.  But at least I know I’m doing it.  We can play with language, afterall…

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Anyone Else Get Shushed? This Is For Us.

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One Woman Show

I hear all the time “I want to write a book but I don’t have time.”  Or “I want to write a book but I have small kids.”  Or “I want to write a book but I have to work fulltime.”  Or “I want to write a book but I’m afraid of what my mother will say.”  I don’t have a lot of sympathy for these comments.  If you want to do something that badly, then do it.  Find a way.  I believe in the pure intention behind the phrase “I want.”  I believe more in the act of creating.  And I believe that we are the ones that get between the two and block our own way.

I have a friend who blows me away with her clear intention and ability to create her life and thereby inspire other people to do the same.  She is transformation in motion.  Yoga teacher, life coach, actress, artist, yoga and meditation retreat leader…phenomenal presence.  I am so proud of her and I want to share what she’s up to these days:  a one woman show.  Just in case it was on your “bucket list,” here’s a word from Jennifer Schelter about how this came to be.  Hopefully it will inspire you to move outside of wishing or wanting…and into creating.  And if you’re lucky enough to be in the Philly area, go see it!

Here’s a trailer to the play

To read the full interview about the entire process of how it came to be  Click here:

What Made Me Write and Perform “Love Lessons from Abu Ghraib”?

by Jennifer Schelter

I guess, you could say, I am the Queen of transforming needless suffering in to something beautiful. And “Love Lessons from Abu Ghraib,” is just that, with a big dash of “I needed to heal my own depression.”

The process of alchemizing depression, anger and sadness into calm, forgiveness and love, is required of an artist. And I take that seriously. I am the artist of my own life. Each day I get a blank canvas. Each day I get to create who and what I will experience. I was in pain and depression after listening to one of the most eye opening experiences I’ve witnessed: Listening and meeting former torture victims. I needed to heal my self.

This play is relevant because torture doesn’t stop. You turn on the radio or TV and out it comes– tons and tons of stories and language, spewing atrocities and violence. I don’t watch or listen. I watch and read it when necessary. I’ve got enough going on between my own two ears. The average person has over 60,000 thoughts a day. 75-85% of them are disempowering and negative. I’m interested in mastering and living in the 20-25% life affirming and empowering thought zone – gratitude, laughter, gentleness, balance, vision, seeing opportunities and possibilities. I call it my “Let’s see what beauty I can create and love life” diet.

People all over the world are tortured in numerous ways. You don’t have to be in Abu Ghraib to be tortured. There are a lot of tortured souls, faking happiness, staking their lives on things that don’t sustain them, depressed, anxious, unfulfilled, not listened to, unacknowledged, conditionally loved, alienated, and isolated. If more people were unconditionally loved, supported, valued, nurtured to play, have fun, be passionate, forgive, and excited to participate in learning new ways of seeing them self and their lives, violence would shrivel like a raisin. You can’t praise and judge simultaneously. Unless we look at the subtle ways we beat our own self up, it will never stop.

Given the recent shooting in Tuscan and President Obama’s statement, “…at a time when we are far too eager to lay the blame for all that ails the world at the feet of those who happen to think differently than we do -– it’s important for us to pause for a moment and make sure that we’re talking with each other in a way that heals, not in a way that wounds.”

“Love Lessons” is my way of taking a moment to talk to my self and others in a way that heals not wounds. It’s my way of forgiving this imperfect job we all have: Being human. My way of understanding and learning is to dialogue, write and study a subject until I feel transformed. Physical movement or kinesthetic learning is part of my process and part of yoga. I study to master how to transform thought into an embodied experience of feeling “divine and free” and have fun while doing it! I’m grateful for having the opportunity to be an actress, playwright, meditation, yoga teacher and life coach. These combined passions and professions have saved me and given me grace when I most needed it. I don’t know what I would do with out physical movement, creativity and Mother Nature. That combination is literally “My God” and offers me the ability to be able to sit with the darkest and lightest part of humanity and myself. The physical body, heart and mind are an alchemical vessel.

I’ve held a lot of pain over the years and I’ve learned how to transform all of it into something practical, useful and beautiful. And because of that I’m really in love with fun and humor right now. It’s my intention that students feel their own inspiration and freedom as well. I think the dark and light inform one another. But it ain’t an easy road or journey. The contrast makes for awareness of how they compliment one another. The dark grit feeds the light grace and new growth. You don’t get to heaven eating angel food cake.  Although, I’ve tried. Flowers only grow and bloom when first planted in dark soil.

Obama recently said, “And I believe that for all our imperfections, we are full of decency and goodness, and that the forces that divide us are not as strong as those that unite us.” Well, I took that statement apart and substituted “I” and “My.”

So it reads: I believe that for all my imperfections, I am full of decency and goodness, and that the forces that divide me are not as strong as those that unite me.

In Sanskrit Yoga means, “to unite”. I stand for any and all creative practices that unites a person in their own definition of goodness. And I know that how I treat my self and others is entirely up to me.

For more information:  http://www.InterActTheatre.org and www.yogaunites.org

Love Lessons Trailer

INTERACT THEATRE PRESENTS A UNIQUE PLAY
ABOUT
HEALING AND SPIRITUAL SURVIVAL

Written & Performed by Jennifer Schelter
Directed by Anne Zumbo

WHEN: January 29 – February 13, 2011

Saturdays @ 4 p.m. & Sundays @ 7p.m.
WHERE: The Adrienne, 2030 Sansom Street, Philadelphia
INFO / RESERVATIONS: InterAct Theatre Company Box Office

Phone: 215.568.8079
Online: http://www.InterActTheatre.org

Overview:
Philadelphia, PAInterAct Theatre Company continues its 23rd season with the special engagement of LOVE LESSONS FROM ABU GHRAIB written and performed by Jennifer Schelter, which begins performances on Saturday, January 29 at 4:00 p.m. Inspired by interviews conducted with Iraqi prisoners of war, LOVE LESSONS offers a unique perspective on spiritual survival and how victims of trauma overcome the pain of their past while learning to move on with their lives.

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In 2006, renowned Philadelphia Yoga teacher and performer, Jennifer Schelter was invited by Lierman Trust for Humanitarian Law to accompany humanitarian lawyer Susan Burke on an expedition to Istanbul, Turkey, where she collected testimony from tortured Iraqis who had been imprisoned at Abu Ghraib. Schelter’s role was to offer her expertise in mind-body connection and integral growth practices as a form of healing to the former detainees. Inspired by the improbable bravery and beauty of the stories she witnessed, Schelter used her unique artistic language, expertise in Yoga, and spiritual growth to craft LOVE LESSONS FROM ABU GHRAIB, a one-woman performance piece that chronicles not only her own personal journey but those of several Iraqi prisoners of war. Often using light-hearted humor to heighten its drama, LOVE LESSONS is a unique and touching play that examines the repercussions of torture and the different ways we attempt to heal ourselves.

Originally performed as part of the 2007 Philadelphia Philly Fringe Festival, LOVE LESSONS has earned praise from critics and audiences alike. Joy E. Stocke, executive editor of Wild River Review hailed LOVE LESSONS as, “a rare piece of theater weaving personal experience, research, and deep knowledge of yogic practice… a compelling story [that] is a testament to her gifts as an actress and writer.” Marian Robinson, host of “Philadelphia Evening Magazine,” called the play, “Extraordinary… the script was insightful, thoughtful, entertaining, illuminating, provocative, charming and everything all rolled into one.” Audience members Pennsylvania Senator Arlen Specter congratulated LOVE LESSONS as, “a very important message… presented in a unique, artistic and impressive way” and Elizabeth Gilbert, author of New York Times best-selling novel Eat, Pray, Love, said, “[Jennifer Schelter has] created a rapturous, captivating and somehow redeeming night of theater out of the darkest, most spiteful and shameful chapter of recent American history… a driving, impassioned, funny, innocent and riveting cry of the heart…”

To read an interview with playwright and performer Jennifer Schelter, visit:  http://www.interacttheatre.org/talkingwithjenniferschelter.htm http://www.interacttheatre.org/talkingwithjenniferschelter.htm.

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February 6, 2011: Immediately following the Sunday evening performance of LOVE LESSONS, at approximately 8:15 p.m., Yoga Unites will host a panel discussion featuring experts in the field of creativity, health and wellness. Topics of discussion will include the meaning and importance of being a compassionate witness, how healing happens, the role creativity plays in the healing process, and how to cultivate and nurture creativity in the face of fear or pain. Line-up of guest speakers to be announced. The discussion is free and open to the public.

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SPECIAL EVENTS DURING LOVE LESSONS
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February 9 and 16, 2011: Stories That Need To Be Told: Share Your Heroes Journey, a series of workshops lead by playwright and actress Jennifer Schelter that explore the power of sharing one’s journey through storytelling, from written to spoken word. Using Schelter’s proven techniques of building humor, calm and confidence, participants will record their inner-most journey while practicing building a safe space, basic breathing and meditation, guided visualization, gentle yoga, and journaling and writing. Workshop one, entitled “Write and Embrace Your Story,” will be held on Wednesday, February 9, 7:00 – 9:00 p.m., and will culminate with participants completing a short, written piece. Workshop two, entitled “Stand and Speak Your Story,” will be held on Wednesday, February 16, 7:00 – 9:00 p.m., and will culminate in participants creating a short monologue that speaks of their heroic journey. The cost to participate is $40.00 per workshop or $60.00 for both workshops together. Reservations can be made through InterAct’s box office at 215.568.8079 or online at www.InterActTheatre.org <http://www.InterActTheatre.org/>  < <http://www.interacttheatre.org/> http://www.interacttheatre.org/> . No yoga, meditation, acting, or writing experience is necessary.

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JENNIFER SCHELTER (Playwright and Performer) Called “One of the Most Inspiring People in Philadelphia” by US Airways Magazine, June 2008, “Best Yoga Instructor” by City Vote 2008, “Best Yoga Instructor 2007” by Philly Fit magazine, and “a real Goddess” by the Philadelphia Inquirer, Jennifer Schelter is an expert in mind-body well-being, observational precision and peak performance modalities that get you calm, and your focused best.

Jennifer, founder and executive director of Yoga Schelter the premiere regional yoga studio in the East Falls section of Philadelphia, is a 500-hour Yoga Alliance Certified Experienced Yoga Teacher and Teacher Training facilitator. Besides her daily teaching schedule, her corporate clients include GlaxoSmithKline, Medtronic, Wharton Business School, and University of Pennsylvania.

She is the founder of “The Radiant Retreat”, a transformative retreat to Maya Tulum, Mexico (which she leads and collaborates with writer/performer Ann Randolph). She is the visionary of Yoga Unites®, a non-profit that provides tools for well-being, self-awareness and self-expression for underserved populations such as the Pennsylvania Horticultural Society – Youth Environmental Stewardship, Philadelphia Mural Arts and Arthur Ashe Tennis Center. Her leadership directs over 1,000 enthusiasts annually at “Yoga Unites for Living Beyond Breast Cancer” on the Philadelphia Art Museum steps. The event has become the largest, regionally-beloved annual event of its kind in the country. The production is growing in leaps and bounds and produces expanded revenues each year.

In October 2009 Jennifer, along with Phyllis Bookspan, founder of RYAH Yoga and Health, co-founded An Authentic Journey into Yoga, Health and Happiness: The Creation of A Successful Life, a 200-hour RYAH/Schelter-Yoga Teacher Training. She is also the producer of the audio yoga CD, am Awake, as well as the DVD, The Art of Vinyasa Yoga.

As an actress and playwright, Jennifer performed her one-woman tour-de-force, LOVE LESSONS FROM ABU GHRAIB, to a standing ovation at the Philadelphia Fringe Festival in September 2007, the Philadelphia Arts and Democracy Conference in June 2008, and was produced by Amnesty International at the Capital Hill Arts Center, Washington, DC, Haverford College, and Eastern Amnesty International Conference in October 2009. Additionally, portions of LOVE LESSONS, along with her short story, “The Michelangelo Effect,” were published in the 2006 summer edition of Wild River Review.

A member of Actors’ Equity and the Screen Actors Guild, Jennifer originated the role of Cat in the 2006 World Premiere of THE FAMILY ROOM by Nagle Jackson at Hedgerow Theatre. In 1998 she originated the role of Cordelia in the World Premiere of TAKING LEAVE by Nagle Jackson at the Denver Center Theatre Company, where she jointly accepted the Tony Award for best regional theatre. She has also worked at the renowned Old Globe Theatre in San Diego, as well as other leading regional theatres across the country.

Jennifer has traveled to Europe, the Balkans, Asia, Southeast Asia, South America and the Caribbean photographing the local personalities, and painting watercolors of landscapes, architecture, and animals. In the summer of 1997, she was selected for Art Retreat Week on the Island of Great Spruce Head, Maine, at the home of American Artist Fairfield Porter. She has sold her work to friends and patrons alike for years; those seeking aliveness and authenticity.
After graduating from Germantown Friends School, she attended Philadelphia college of Art and University of Syracuse in Florence, Italy. She graduated both from Connecticut College with a Bachelor of Arts in Art History and Oil Painting and the University of San Diego/Old Globe Theatre Program with a Masters in Theatre.

For more information regarding her inspired yoga, meditation and writing classes, integral growth coaching, and retreats for individuals and corporate clients, visit her award winning website:

ANNE ZUMBO (Director) is pleased to work together once again with Ms. Shelter, directing LOVE LESSONS FROM ABU GHRAIB, now in its 4th incarnation. After working for Melanie Stewart Dance Theatre, Anne studied physical theatre at the renowned Ecole Philipe Gaulier in London, U.K. Upon her return, she began creating socio-political pieces that performed for the Philadelphia Fringe Festivals and collaborated with Myra Bazell to write the script for EXTREME. During that time she also directed for and presented in small theatres around Philadelphia, and the Ritz Theatre in NJ where she began her love of teaching while working with the autistic and deaf students who attended their camp. She now celebrates her 4th year working with students with disabilities at Wissahickon Charter School, the country’s only urban school with an environmental mission.

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ABOUT INTERACT THEATRE COMPANY

Founded in 1988, InterAct is a theatre for today’s world, producing new and contemporary plays that explore the social, political, and cultural issues of our time. InterAct’s aim is to educate, as well as entertain, its audiences, by producing world-class, thought-provoking productions, and by using theatre as a tool to foster positive social change. To date, InterAct has presented 70 mainstage productions, including 30 World Premieres, two U.S. premieres, and over 30 regional premieres. The company has received 43 Barrymore Award nominations and 16 awards. InterAct’s mainstage productions have provided work for over 500 local artists. Inaddition to the 4-play mainstage season, InterAct Theatre’s major programming includes InterAction, a program of experiential workshops and residencies in area schools that utilize theatre as a tool to illuminate pressing social problems in the community; the20/20 New Play Commissioning program, an ambitious new initiative that will award twenty new play commissions over six seasons; and New Play Development, working closely with playwrights to develop plays that adhere to the company’s mission.

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Free Boys.

I haven’t put my kids’ faces on my blog before, but I just couldn’t resist this. My son and his dear friend made up a song and they sing it all the time. May we all sing. And sing. And make up songs. And smile. And shout them. And share them. Without self-consciousness. Yes is a world that children well know. I want to live in that world. (my kid is the one on the right.)

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