A few days ago, I wrapped a workshop for a new stage play entitled “Billie And Billy, written by Paul Oakley Stovall. It was the first installation for the OUTFront Series by Chicago’s About Face Theater. While a lot of projects have come across my desk since the 2010 Tony Awards, I must say that I am rather odd and unpredictable with what I express interest in. Frankly, I have only chosen to do a couple of acting engagements in the last two years, mostly due to the fact that it takes an overwhelming amount of work to promote an album independently. Funny how this one came about.
I knew Paul Oakley Stovall from Facebook. I then became acquainted with his piece “Immediate Family” (http://immediatefamilyplay.com) and really loved his humor. We would leave random messages every now and then, suggesting we should connect. It wasn’t until getting on the 22 bus down Clark Street that I get a text message. ”Where are you?” It was Paul, sitting right next to me on the bus. We met. We hit it off.
Eventually I hear from my agent that he represents Paul, and I quote, “If two people ever need to explore the idea of working together, it’s you two.” Noted.
Months later, I get a text message from Paul asking me to jump in and workshop this piece about gender roles. The story revolves around a transgendered woman from the perspective of two characters that knew her at different times in her life. The male and female actors switch roles half way through the piece, giving a very interesting twist to how we as an audience perceive gender stereotypes and sexuality. We had only four days to suss out the piece and do a two night reading for a crowd of onlookers, hoping the Q&A to follow each night would provide constructive feedback for Paul and team.
Directed by Krissy Vanderwarker with original music by Brad Simmons, I most enjoyed the lovely and talented Kristina Valada-Viars, my stage partner. Such a soulful gal! Such a generous actor.
The experience was like getting a fix. A high. It had been so long since I had felt the synergy between myself and another actor. To dance and play. To fall without a net. To arrive wherever the moment takes you. Such an energy rush. So pure.
To me, acting is this entirely unique human connection that I can’t find anywhere else but with another actor. It’s strange. Music is singular. It’s private. It’s therapy for me to write a song and share it. It’s more of an exhibitionist/voyeur relationship to me where I expose my nakedness and the world watches it happen. But acting…oh my. Funny how a little four day workshop reminds me of the love I have for acting. There is nothing that compares to sharing a scene with a generous, humble, and present actor. It’s like being kids and playing all over again. Thanks Kristina for giving me that experience. Thanks team for bringing me into this experience. The world will be waiting to see more from this lovely work in progress.
Imagine Paradise: Available on iTunes Worldwide
Written by Levi Kreis
Rap written by Marcos Brito
It’s the love, love revolution
It’s what I’ve been waiting for
La la la la la la
La la la la la la
Oh, (Levi sing it, brother give it)
I can’t deny the feeling
When I think of all that we have made it through
Ooh, we set it to motion!
We’ve done a lot of dealin’
Did a lot of things we shouldn’t have to do
Ooh, you can call it devotion
I see a new day finally dawning
For you and me, it’s about equality, yeah
It’s up to you and I to get on it
Can you feel it? I can feel it!
I feel a love revolution
It’s the only true solution
We are the love revolution
Keep it alive, alive, alive
We’ve have to fight together
We’ve had to riot just to be heard
Ooh, but we got ‘em talkin’
I know it’s far from over
We’ve got the will to build a better world
Ooh, we’re stopping at nothing
I see a new day finally dawning
For the world to see
All the possibilities, yeah
It’s up to you and I to get on it
Can you feel it? I can feel it!
Like vinyl to needle
Let’s get to the point
We’re all just people
Labels don’t exist
Boxes don’t fit
Tags don’t tick
There’s no guest list
Our family tree is strong but broken
In the 80’s our hero’s were taken
HIV became AIDS
Tree lost it’s leaves
So full of feats and so plane to see
Our pride in numbers is wide like Hummers
In all the colors we made them summers
We are the mothers, we are the brothers
We are the lovers, we are each other
Our contribution, despite persecution
Is the love, love revolution
Social Currency. People share things that make them look good to others. And regardless of how sincere our sharing may be, there is always some level of ego attached to the statement we are making. Perhaps it’s natural. After all, it is human nature to want to integrate, relate with one another, and build community. Campaigns, products, and businesses leverage millions of dollars against it. They all use social currency to get their message out to the world.
Today is Spirit Day. Millions wear purple in a stand against bullying and to show their support for our LGBT community - specifically our youth. Anything that reminds us to lift our children up is okay by me! And for eight years now, I have used my music, interviews, and live shows to convey to my LGBT brothers and sisters that you are a PERFECT expression of God, just as you are. No one can take away your personal power when you know that you are an intentional expression of God. Flawless. Fabulous. And more powerful RIGHT NOW than you know. It gets better - not the way most people use this phrase - not when outside circumstances become “easier”. Life is an inside job. It gets better when you decide right now that you are perfect the way God made you. It gets better when you resign to the FACT that you are more powerful than you have ever imagined! We all have your back, baby! Stand tall and be fabulous!
…but this blog is more for us grown-ups. We are the ones that will be sporting our social currency today, then roll through our week dishing out the same old bullshit - being verbally condescending, manipulating others, skirting personal responsibility by shifting blame, making others wear our judgements of them, and doing whatever we can to force people to be the way we think they should be. (After all, did the world not get King Levi’s edict on how to be in the world? Did they not hear me when I told them how to drive on MY roads?) But how can we expect our youth to be any different when our daily conversation is so full of intolerance for other people!
The “ego of the evolved” has always been a fascinating cultural study to me. I first came to observe it as the piety in the fundamentalist church. Now I can see that it exists anywhere a spiritual culture is present. We adopt the language, the phrasing, the tone of voice. We walk back to our car with our yoga mats and our vegan deserts. We present our case for compassion, oneness, and expanding consciousness, and none of it makes us more loving to each other. Sure, we get to feel special and evolved - like we belong to something impactful - but our daily interaction isn’t making the world a more tolerant place.
So before I go hanging my egoic virtues out there for all to read -how I meditate 30 minutes every morning, 30 minutes at night, how I am exploring a vegan lifestyle now, and how I love to infuse “consciousness” into my music…how about I start today by simply becoming more self aware? How about I ask myself this simple question. “Who have I placed outside of my heart today.”
We are full grown adults here. It’s time you and I put down the self- compassion bit (translation…absolving ourselves of personal responsibility) and started applying ACTION! Everything means nothing if it doesn’t DO something. Tolerance begins with YOU and I! At home. At the office. Behind the steering wheel of the car. In the world. Without that…we’re just another adult saying to our youth “Do as I say, not as I do.”
I grew up with very hard-working grandparents and parents that taught my brother and I the meaning of “elbow grease”. I remember my grandmother saying “It doesn’t matter what you have, but how you care for what you have.” My grandparents humble home looked so rich to me as a kid - because it was always pristine, orderly, and cared for.
Since 12 years old, I’ve been working in an industry that is known to be one of the meanest and most dishonest businesses out there - with a degree of rejection that would make most people cripple with insecurity. Truly, I’ve had thousands of no’s against my 3 or 4 golden yes’s. I’ve always believed that if you’re going to succeed you have to care for what you have, work hard to gain more, and never give up. I still believe this to be true, but as I get older, I am beginning to tamper it with a deeper spiritual principle: the law of least effort.
If this sounds familiar, you may have read about this as one of the "Seven Spiritual Laws of Success" by Deepak Chopra. And such an amazing principle. It evaluates what beliefs we actually hold about life and suggests that "nature’s intelligence functions with effortless ease and abandoned carefreeness." When we learn this lesson from nature, we get on the right track to fulfilling our desires.
Nature is a brilliant teacher, and Life is so intelligent. There are infinite examples of how nature meets seeming obstacles with an evolutionary intelligence that evolves and adapts to the circumstances. So, what gets in the way of this evolutionary Intelligence demonstrating in our daily life? For me, it’s that lingering belief that things can’t be accomplished unless I am being the obsessive control freak that wants to effort on everything and never trust a graceful easy flow! ”Efforting” makes me feel accomplished, busy, and “virtuous”. If I’m “efforting”, I am assured that I’m not “waisting time”. Oh, but how much time is waisted in busy work that gives me the illusion of accomplishment when I could have greater progress if I were aligned with natures graceful easy unfolding?
We are creative beings. Our thoughts become tangible things. And the mental dialogue that runs our Monday through Friday can be maddening, and actually be less productive. These days, I’m learning to consider my actions from an intuitive nudging rather than a compulsive mental dialogue. And I actually get more done in less time.
I love this. Chopra says, "If you observe nature at work, you will see that least effort is expended. Grass doesn’t try to grow, it just grows. Fish don’t try to swim, they just swim. Flowers don’t try to bloom, they bloom. Birds don’t try to fly, they fly. This is their intrinsic nature. The earth doesn’t try to spin on its own axis; it is the nature of the earth to spin with dizzying speed and to hurtle through space. It is the nature of babies to be in bliss. It is the nature of the sun to shine. It is the nature of the stars to glitter and sparkle. And it is human nature to make our dreams manifest into physical form, easily, and effortlessly."
I can’t say it any better than that. So, join me this season in working smarter - not harder. Let our endeavors be motivated and inspired from a graceful easy intelligence rather than the compulsive mental crazy that often keeps us running in circles with little to show. A more peaceful road to even greater success.