Monday, November 25, 2013

The Survivor

Back in 2011 I visited my best friend who was living in Virginia at the time. We went to Washington D.C. and I was thrilled to see that the Natural History Museum had a featured exhibit on human evolution. I ended up coming across something that stuck with me for a long time. 

The hallways were filled with fascinating displays and I bounded from one glass case to the next. There were weapons and recreations of cave paintings. Colorful maps of how we spread across the Earth lined the walls.

Off-set in one of the smaller rooms was a modest yet profound gallery. It held mostly fragments of bone. It was a room dedicated to our ancestors who died by harsh means. It was meant to serve as a reminder that most of our history was a very real struggle between life and death. 

There was the small fossilized foot of a toddler with crocodile teeth marks torn all the way through. Grooves made by jaguar teeth decorate the skull of an adolescent. But the one I remember the most was the skull and arm bones of an adult male. 

Walking up to his display case my first assumption was that he died from the large dent left in his skull, but the huge difference in the size between his right and left arm raised my curiosity.

The explanation next to the bones reads as follows: Blow to the head - At young age this Neanderthal experienced a crushing blow to his head. It damaged the left eye socket and the brain area that controls the right side of the body, leading to a withered right arm. Nevertheless, he lived until 35-45 years of age. His group must have looked after him. 

As it turns out this individual suffered a blow to his head early in his life that not only crushed in part of his skull and left eye socket but it had also damaged the part of the brain that we now know controls the right side of the body. His right arm bone was far more slender and weaker than his apparently normal left arm.

What was so remarkable about his massive injuries was that based on the healing of the bones scientists were able to determine that this individual lived to be in his late thirties to early forties - which was about the average life expectancy.

How on earth could a man crippled physically - as well as possibly mentally and emotionally - survive so many years beyond the initial injury? What was even more astonishing was that he was not even a modern human. He was a Neanderthal.

Hundreds of thousands of years before modern medicine and what we would consider society, healthy males were needed to hunt. He, more than likely, would not have been able to participate in such rough and demanding physical activity. He would have been a burden. Yet his age and the healing of his bones tell a unexpectedly beautiful story: He was looked after.

He would never have been able to survive on his own after sustaining such a traumatic injury. But there were those who would not leave him behind. He was feed, clothed, and given shelter. He remained with his tribe and whatever burden he may have been, he was not abandoned.

We don't often think of Neanderthals in this way. They are presented to us as a brutish, less intelligent versions of ourselves. They faded away and so we assumed dominance. But slowly it is beginning to emerge that this lost species had achieved a surprising amount of culture. The oldest known cave paintings and burial sites are thought to be Neanderthal. And when you are looking at the bones of a Neanderthal who could never have survived alone, it is impossible to see them without a culture. The level of compassion for this man must have been amazing.

It makes you wonder how he even got hurt in the first place. Who was the one who found him or was with him when it happened? How did they even treat his wounds at the time? Today we can see how the injury affected him physically but we can never know the full extent of the damage. Did the blow to his head hinder his eyesight? Did it affect his memory? Did he suffer from chronic headaches? Did it change his personality in some way? Did those who looked after him feel like they lost a part of him or were they relived that they still had him around? How did he compensate for the lack of development on the right side of his body? How did he cope with knowing he would never be the same again?

Other visitors to the museum move past me, eager to see the next exhibit. I stand still looking down at his skull with my fingers pressed against the glass. It is a miracle that someone even found his remains. What are the odds that I'd be standing over a man that died so long ago and be able to know a little bit about his life? I have so many questions that I will never know the answers to. Sometimes all you can do is just let yourself feel. I am so moved by the life of this man and what he must have gone through. I am grateful for this touching window into the past and this profound example of humanity. My eyes tear up and I linger by his bones. For a moment the distance between our lives seems so small. The museum buzzes with movement around me but I remain still. I share a moment of silence with this survivor.

Monday, November 18, 2013

DRIP's One Year Anniversary

On Saturday, November 16th DRIP celebrated one year of being open on International Drive in Orlando Florida. It was a night to honor our success as well as our family of supporters. Past and present cast members could all be seen side by side in a delightful reunion. It was beautifully overwhelming to be surrounded by so much love and creativity. 

Tinkerbelle has been with the show since before we opened our doors and she was instrumental in coming up with the shows lighting design. Dimitri originally came to the show as a guest in March. He loved the show so much that he saw it multiple times and asked if he could work with us. For the past year I have worked with Tink and Dimitri the closest and they have become good friends as well as an adorable couple. Tink received her first tattoo on the day of our anniversary. It matched Dimitri's and highlights their love of the Harry Potter series. 

After the show the band was planning on moving into the bar area to perform more songs and keep the party going. We had a singer joining us for the event but David, our musical director, asked the cast and crew if they wanted to sing any songs. Tink, pictured above with the band, practices her performance of Ylvis's viral hit "What Does The Fox Say?"

I also got the chance to sing. I performed "I Hate Myself For Loving You" by Joan Jett and the Blackhearts. My best friend Matt was en route to the show when I was called up to the stage. I began singing and was overwhelmed by the support and enthusiasm from my fellow cast members, most of whom had no idea that I could sing. It was my first time singing in front of an audience and there I was with a full band behind me and 130 guests watching. I had a blast doing it! It is something that I wish I did more often and I was truly grateful for the experience. 

Just as I began the second verse Matt rushed in through the door waving his hands. Our eyes meet and I smiled. I was so happy that he made it in the nick of time. 

After I got off stage we embraced and he smiled "I had no idea you could do that!" I was so overjoyed to have him there with me that night. 

This is one of my favorite photos from that night. Mariko, our CEO and Creative Director, decided to surprise us with framed posters that said "Original Cast and Crew". From left to right: Jessie Sander, our principal dancer who has also done a considerable amount of production work with us as well, Mariko, Tink, and myself. The four of us have been a solid team long before we opened the doors.

This past year has certainly been one of the most rewarding years of my life. Looking back it is amazing to see how far we have come and how hard we all strived. I could not imaging working with better group of people. I know in my heart that we have become an unstoppable force and that this was only the beginning.

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Feet: Part 7

Resting my legs on the wall adjacent to my bed. One of the first pictures I took in my new apartment. I thoroughly enjoy having the place all to myself. 

Watching the waves rush past my feet back to the ocean on an overcast summer getaway. 

One of the first things I do when I get home from work is remove my shoes. As soon as I did I realized that I had to go to the laundry room. I grabbed a pair of sandals and headed out. As I was reaching for my keys I looked down and laughed. I was still in my black uniform but my feet looked unusually tropical. 

The photo was taken after I got home from a DRIP show. The paint had soaked through my clothes and shoes to create an interesting swirl pattern - as well as imprint the elastic band of my sock. 

The photo was originally sent to one of my friends as a joke after I had finally worn out a pair of sandals. When we met up I said "You know, I realized that it might have been a little strange sending you a photo of my feet. Sorry if that was weird."

He laughed "I knew you were at DRIP from the concrete floor and the sand. But I was more surprised that you had perfectly painted toenails." 

"Yeah" I smiled "It's kinda my thing." 

Sunday, November 3, 2013

The T-shirt Workshop

Part of the experience of coming to a DRIP show is getting your t-shirt cut by one of our designers. Recently, our Creative Director decided that it would be beneficial for our other staff member to learn some of the basics. We gathered any old clothing to practice on and we met for the workshop. 

The following photos are the result of our creative experiments running wild. 

This is Kirby, one of the guitarists for the show. He is modeling a shirt that I got carried away with.  The words on the shirt read "Who needs Photoshop when you have a body like this." 

Kirby and one of our crew members Dimitri - joyfully playing with the newly cut fringe on their shirts. 

Jessie, one of our principal dancers, modeling a very official "Sacurrity" t-shirt with a twisted waistband and one missing sleeve. 

Musical Director David modeling some of the left over sleeves while guitarist Steve contemplates his next design. 

Crew member Ashlyn works diligently while Dimitri models his mask. 

I cherish this silly days of child-like silliness and creativity. We grow so much when we allow ourselves to play.