#FineArtsFriday: Miller Outdoor Theater

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Relaxed outdoor locale perfect for picnics and the arts.

The Palette

Nestled in the midst of the sprawling gardens and swanky golf course of Hermann Park is the imposing monolith of Miller Outdoor Theater.  During the year, Miller is home to a multitude of FREE entertainment, including my favorite Houston arts event: Shakespeare in the Park.

Miller is comprised of a towering amphitheater with stadium seating.  The seats beneath the amphitheater roof are paid seating and great for all those summer showers.  The majority of people, however, sit on the spacious hill overlooking the stage. It’s a great place to spread out a blanket and make a picnic, or play with the kids, or expose your dog to some culture.  Personally, I have great memories of rolling down the back side of the hill with my normally very stuffy grandmother. If you want to lay out your spread on a blanket, sit to the right of the stage. If you’re too good for the ground, chairs go to the left.  And don’t forget the wine.

My favorite Miller event, however, will always be Shakespeare in the Park.  For two weeks every year the University of Houston Theater Department brings to life two of Shakespeare’s plays.  They alternate night to night between the tragedy and the comedy (much like real life, let’s be honest). This past year was a wonderful rendition of Hamlet where the titular character was played by a woman to emphasize Hamlet’s youth and indecision, and Comedy of Errors.  If you missed it, fear not, it will be back around next August.

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  • Other events:  Check out Miller’s website to see all the upcoming events:  http://www.milleroutdoortheatre.com/events/month/.
  • Restaurant:  If you need a pre-show meal, I highly recommend Lucille’s (5512 La Branch St, Houston, TX 77004).  Lucille herself is also an amazing character (http://www.lucilleshouston.com/herstory.html) who invented the puff pastry used in Pillsbury rolls.  If you’re curious, I highly recommend the Famous Chili Biscuits.  
  • Podcasts:  If you’re newer to Shakespeare, University of Oxford’s Approaching Shakespeare is a great podcast that explores one question for each play to delve deeper into the play and learn the basics of criticism.  Folger Shakespeare Library’s Shakespeare Unlimited is a great podcast that talks about all things Shakespeare, from the views of seasoned actors to an interview with a gentleman turning pop music into sonnets.  And Slate Magazine’s Lend Me Your Ears uses Shakespeare to discuss current political ideologies.
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Woman Crush Wednesday: Myra Bradwell

Image result for myra bradwellThe Bouquet

Myra Bradwell:  The United States Supreme Court told her it was rational to bar her from being an attorney because of the presumed female frailty, so instead she made laws, changed laws, and became the voice of the profession that spurned her.  So much for fainting on the courthouse steps.

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Myra Bradwell is a name that few people have heard, unless those people have been to law school (granted, do lawyers really count as people anyway?).  For us few soulless corporate monsters or idealistic pauper do-gooders that suffered through a semester of constitutional law, Myra Bradwell is the woman who was denied the right to practice law in Illinois, because “[t]he natural and proper timidity and delicacy which belongs to the female sex evidently unfits it for many of the occupations of civil life.”  That’s an actual quote from the concurring opinion of the Supreme Court of the United States ladies and gents.  Just FYI.  

That name and that quote often follow me into the office or the courtroom or wherever I’m called upon to be a zealous but dispassioned advocate for whomever is paying my bills.  She was denied a right that I now have by the United States Supreme Court, which agreed with the Illinois Supreme Court, in 1873. And that is why I know the name Myra Bradwell. That is why I decided to write this blogpost about Myra Bradwell.  But that should not be the legacy of Myra Colby Bradwell.

Myra Bradwell was born February 12, 1831 in Manchester, Vermont.  She married James B. Bradwell, and in 1855 he became a lawyer.  She worked in his law offices.  And, like so many to come before and after her, she thought “hmm, I could do that.”  So she sat for and passed the Illinois Bar Exam (trust me, it’s so much more than a test), and applied to be admitted to the Illinois Bar.  They said no. So she sued and took it all the way to the Illinois Supreme Court. They said no. And so she appealed that to the United State Supreme Court.  And you guessed it, they said no (actually they said Illinois had the right to make its own laws and women weren’t guaranteed the right to be an attorney by the 14th Amendment — legal semantics most of you won’t care about).  I’m sure the court case was salacious. I’m sure an entire country was up in arms as pro or against. But did Ms. Bradwell sit on her tuffet and wait to see if she’d be granted the right to perform a job she was perfectly qualified for?  No.

In 1868, Myra Bradwell founded the Chicago Legal News.  It was the first legal newspaper edited by a woman. It soon became the most important legal publication in the American west.  She continued its publication even after the offices were destroyed in the Great Chicago Fire of 1871. The publication was so important that legislation was passed allowing courts to take judicial notice of it (which in non-legalese means essentially that courts could take it as evidence without requiring proof that it was accurate).  So a legal journal edited by a person denied the right to practice law changed the landscape of the profession that spurned her. So much for fainting on the courthouse steps.

But that’s not all.  Myra Bradwell helped organize Chicago’s first suffragette convention in 1869, and helped found the American Suffrage Association (her husband helped).  She helped draft and pass a bill giving married women the right to retain their wages. She even represented Illinois at the Centennial Exposition in Philadelphia (which was the first World’s Fair), and helped Illinois win.

And, in a truly strange turn of historical events, Myra Bradwell assisted Mary Todd Lincoln (yes, that Mrs. Lincoln) in freeing herself from a mental institution after her son had her committed without due process following the assassination of this nation’s 16th president.  

Eventually in 1890 Myra Bradwell was admitted to the Illinois bar on their own motion (i.e. she didn’t reapply, Illinois decided she should be admitted), and was given the right to practice before the U.S. Supreme Court months before her death on Valentine’s Day 1894.  But she didn’t wait around for the door to open to follow her passion. She snuck in windows and down chimneys, effectuating change all around her and impacting the legal profession more than most admitted attorneys.

So now, when I’m sitting in a courtroom full of attorneys, all of whom are white males (honestly, still not that uncommon of an occurrence), I’m not thinking about the court case Ms. Bradwell lost.  I’m thinking about what she did with the rights she had.

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Photocredit:  https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Myra_Bradwell

#MotivationMonday – The Blog that Saved Me

BSYFor this first #MotivationMonday, we’re going to talk about the blog that saved me:  Big Strong Yes.

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Big Strong Yes is a brave and life-changing podcast where an academic with a poetic soul, and a brilliant and empathetic narrative theorist who have both risen from hardship work their way through three challenging books to learn in real-time how to fall, how to rise, and how to fly.

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A little over a year ago, as hurricane Harvey was forming in the Gulf of Mexico, I found a podcast that literally changed my life.  I’m not one to get too personal on the internets (I may have to face a Senate Confirmation Hearing someday), but suffice to say, this podcast gave me the tools to realize I was in the burning house, the strength to get up off my butt, and the courage to walk out the front door.  

It all started with me listening to a podcast by two literary agents that I followed on Twitter.  They recommended a podcast by two narrative theorists who were analyzing Buffy the Vampire Slayer — be still my heart.  I hopped on over and fell down the rabbit hole . . . until one day the podcast stopped. There was a note from the inimitable Lani Diane Rich (learn more about her podcasting empire in the “Pairings” section below) leading the way to her new media company.  At first I tuned in out of curiosity to hear more from a woman who had taught me more about literature and criticism and art than any of my classes in school. But what I found was what I needed to hear.

Big Strong Yes is hosted by Lani Diane Rich, a self-proclaimed preacher of story (and y’all, she has earned that title), and Dr. Kelly Jones, a professor with a doctorate in learning theory who will make you define your terms and do your homework.  Together, they led a bookclub of sorts where they read “Rising Strong” by Brene Brown, “Big Magic” by Elizabeth Gilbert, and “Year of Yes” by Shonda Rhimes.  Their goal — embrace “courage, creativity, and the call to adventure.”

The books are of course brilliant and inspiring.  Brene Brown is a professor of social work at the University of Houston (Let’s here it for the Hometown!), and her book talks about what it’s like to take a fall (figuratively speaking) and learning to rise again.  Elizabeth Gilbert is the author of “Eat, Pray, Love” and her book is about finding your creative magic and leaning in to the trickster magic of the universe. And Shonda Rhimes is the creator of shows like “Grey’s Anatomy,” “Scandal,” and “How to Get Away with Murder” (as if you didn’t already know), and her book is a memoir of her learning to stop hiding from her life and say yes.  I commend these books (and they’ll probably be subjects of future #MotiviationMonday Posts), but there is a reason I’m starting with the podcast. Listening as two incredibly intelligent, capable, funny, beautiful women work their way through some of the most challenging material will change your life.

Each week there’s a reading assignment from one of the books, and adiscussion focusing on three things → the Big Idea, the Strong Challenge, and the Yes.  Lani and Dr. Jones discuss the portions of the reading assignment that resonate with them, the portions that they resist and didn’t want to face (and thus needed to face), and a homework assignment inspired by the reading (sometimes self assigned, sometimes assigned by their partner-in-podcasting — honestly those were the best).  

The first book was Rising Strong.  They worked through the shame-triggers and the skill set necessary to learn to rise.  They wrote shitty first drafts and said the things we’re all afraid to admit we feel.  It was a slog. They cried. I cried. My dog whined. Hell, I wined. But we all grew together.  

The second book was Big Magic, and y’all, it was candy.  It re-awoke my belief in the trickster magic of the universe and blasted its way through the hard coating of my pain right to my melodramatic, passionate, emotional center.  I felt again. I remembered what it was like to feel something other than fear and shame. I felt alive.

The third book was Year of Yes, where we all had to put our money where our mouth was.  In Year of Yes, Shonda Rhimes talks about her struggle to stop numbing and start living.  To say yes to the things that scare her. To get out of the comfortable, workaholic, food-numbing bliss that is the fear cocoon.  Our fearless podcasters busted out of that cocoon right with her. They shared their real life stories of trauma and began the unfuckening (this blog will be PG13)– the perfect word created by Lani Diane Rich to describe the process of not necessarily forgiving, but also not letting someone who had hurt you control your emotions any more.  

All in all, it was the journey I needed when I felt like I’d come to the end of my rope.  And wherever you are in your journey, it’s the podcast for you.  Do you feel like you’ve hit rock bottom and you don’t know where go to?  Start at episode one.  Do you feel like you’ve lost touch with your creativity and it’s a dried up raisin of your soul?  Start at episode twelve:  Big Sloppy Wet Kiss.  Are you stuck feeling like life is . . . just meh?  Start at episode 22:  The Naughty Bits.

So here’s the thing, the podcast was all about bravery.  They shared their stories so we felt less alone in ours. They showed us how to work through the tough times, so we at least knew it was possible.  In that spirit, I suppose I should share (a little) too.

In August of 2017, when I first ran across Big Strong Yes, I was working in a toxic environment.  It wasn’t actionable under Title IX and no one physically beat me, but it was snuffing out the essence of who I was a little day-by-day.  When it first started, I thought I was crazy or overly-sensitive. But then the coincidences got less and less believable. And I talked to others who’d left the same position and realized it wasn’t just me.  Y’all, if you’re one of those people who don’t know the word cry and suddenly start crying daily at your job, you should probably change jobs. I had a great friend at that job who kept me sane . . . and honestly probably kept me alive.  But I felt myself become less and less me. I closed in. I became afraid of people — I’m an extrovert! it was terrible. I’d been doing improv for a year and a half, but suddenly I found myself frozen on stage. I lost hair. I gained weight.  And all the while, I blamed myself. My own weakness. My own frailty. Until something happened that I couldn’t take the blame for, couldn’t ignore. That even the people that laughed off my horror stories and treated me like a child that didn’t know her own mind couldn’t ignore.  And I would’ve fallen, hard. But because of the process I went through with #BSY, I had the skills to stand back up, find a better path, and leave.

So here’s your call to “embrace courage, creativity, and the call to adventure.”  If you’re stuck in the numbing cocoon you’ve built to protect you from the pain you can’t face and you need someone to show you how to walk through, this is the podcast for you.  If you aren’t quite as melodramatic, but you’re still looking for coping skills or skills to find that creative spirit that never seems to sit down with you when you’re ready to create, this is also the podcast for you.  

 

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The books!  Rising Strong, Year of Yes, and Big Magic, are all masterpieces.  I highly recommend them.

Chipperish Media → This is the media company created by Lani Diane Rich and it has something to offer for nearly everyone.  Still Dead and Still Pretty are podcasts analyzing Angel and Buffy the Vampire Slayer, respectively, through the lensof narrative and character theory.  Bonus! Dr. Jones is the co-host of Still Dead.  How Story Works is a college-level class on narrative theory and advanced literary criticism in podcast form.  But beware, I’ve lost so many nights re-writing works-in-progress based on the knowledge I’ve gained (it’s a real pain). And then there’s Listen Up A-holes where LDR and superhero scholar Joshua Uhnrue analyze the Marvel Universe.  Joshua is a comicbook aficionado who makes Marvel’s world-building accessible for us fan-girls who really just showed up for Tom Hiddleston.  There are other podcasts too!