Friday, December 19, 2014

Musical a hit!

The musical DEGAS IN NEW ORLEANS was such a hit and I thought of how long you have believed in me!
Oh my god people stood up. They were humming "I dreamed I was a bird and I could fly" the opening number and "Don't mean nothing if you are free" the foot stomping number. David's music was astonishing. Big cast. Huge operatic feel.  Flooding aura.  New Orleans at her wicked best. And unforgettable music with an old time blues undertone at points (beginning of jazz undercurrent) Of course David's classical guitar music was breathtaking. So glad I'm upstate where so much work could be done. The brilliant director has been tweaking the actors since August. Oh my. I am in heaven. Only want my shows as musicals from now on!
Wish you could see  —and you can It is still playing tonight at the Bard Fisher Center, theater 2. Tickets are $8 and $10 and can be purchased by calling the box office at 845-758-7900

below are more links to articles about the show. Please come! 

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

A review of my upcoming musical

Degas in New Orleans, a Musical World Premiere, Opening Thursday at Bard’s Fisher Center
Posted by carole ditosti
The year 2017 will mark the centennial of Edward Degas‘ death when the renown French Impressionist died in Paris, quite alone and nearly blind. Events celebrating Degas’s life and work are already gearing up. Playwright Rosary O’Neill, and the husband wife team, composer and solo guitarist David Temple and producer/director Deborah Temple are in the forefront celebrating the beloved artist in their World Premiere of the musical Degas in New Orleans which is opening Thursday, December 18th at Bard’s Fisher Center.
The year 2017 will mark the centennial of Edward Degas‘ death when the renown French Impressionist died in Paris, quite alone and nearly blind. Events celebrating Degas’s life and work are already gearing up. Playwright Rosary O’Neill, and the husband wife team, composer and solo guitarist David Temple and producer/director Deborah Temple are in the forefront celebrating the beloved artist in the World Premiere of the musical Degas in New Orleans which is opening Thursday, December 18th at Bard’s Fisher Center.

Degas is most famous for his paintings, prints, and drawings, and is closely identified with the subject of dance, since more than half of his works depict dancers. He has been associated with Impression, though he preferred to characterize himself as a realist. What many Americans do not realize about Edgar Degas was that he spent a period of his life in New Orleans, Louisiana, with his brother Rene and his family, staying at the home of his Creole uncle, Michel Musson, on Esplanade Avenue. This dramatic period of his life is the setting of the new musical Degas in New Orleans, written by Rosary O’Neill, with music composed by David Temple. The production, which is beautifully conceived and directed by Deborah Temple, has the honor of being presented by a select group of students in the Red Hook Central School District.

Degas in New Orleans is about Edgar Degas’ visit to his family who were in a state of crisis after the Civil War and struggling to survive. Degas is swept up in the events of family, the political currents and the cultural changes that are upending the city of New Orleans. He  attempts to give his moral and financial support, but finds the circumstances there more and more troubling as he becomes entranced with Estelle and other family members. He gains solace through painting family; notably there is a niece who loves to practice her dance. As the conflicts grow more desperate in his life with them, he discovers secrets about his sister-in-law, Estelle and his brother Rene. The circumstances spin beyond his control ultimately break his heart. The production of Degas in New Orleans is in its final rehearsal stages. As you can see from the production photos, it looks to be one more amazing achievement in the careers of the husband and wife team David and Deborah Temple and Rosary O’Neill.

About the composer, playwright, director/producer

David Temple is a noted composer, classical guitarist and faculty member of The Bard College Conservatory of Music. Temple collaborated with Rosary O’Neill and Deborah Temple on the production Broadway or Bust, which was also presented at the Bard Fisher Center a year ago and for which he originated all of its music. Temple is a solo and instrumental composer who has performed globally and whose works are being used for film and television. His CDs may be found online along with his performance schedule and videos of his performance events.
Rosary O’Neill is a noted playwright, whose works have been produced at The Southern Rep, a theatre she founded in New Orleans. Her plays have been published by Samuel French. Some of them have been compiled in three anthologies whose subject is one of the loves of her life, her native New Orleans. She  has written novels and screenplays and has also authored texts on the theater, acting and the dramatic arts. Her most recent published work is non fiction. It is a subject close to her heart and on which she is an expert, New Orleans Mardi Gras which has its roots steeped in the occult and mystical Carnival celebrations of Europe.
    Rosary O’Neill with Degas the 
    green dancer in NOMA (New Orleans).
    Photo by Carole Di Tosti

Deborah and David Temple, director/producer, and composer of ‘Degas in New Orleans.’ 

Deborah Temple has years of experience producing and directing musical theatre and is well known in upstate New York’s Hudson River Valley circles. For over a decade her dedication and tireless efforts directing and producing talented students in the Red Hook Performing Arts Club with the assistance of friends and community members have garnered the support of all those in the Red Hook Central School District and beyond. Her reputation for high standards in producing quality productions precedes her.  As a long time Red Hook Central School District employee and Performing Art’s Club adviser, she is thrilled to be an integral part of the community. And whether she is aware of this or not, in producing exceptional high school productions she has become an important vehicle for sustaining regional theater in upstate New York, especially in a time when it is increasingly difficult to mount and/or innovate theater productions without incurring massive debts (the budget of a minimalist production could feed 2 families with children for a year).

The Cast of Red Hook Performing Arts Club is a group of select, highly talented students whose energy and creativity have inspired them to collaborate with composer David Temple and director Deborah Temple. Together this group of artists have evolved the songs for Degas in New Orleans in “real time,” honing the words and the musical lines to perfection. It is a process all composers use when innovating the musical scores for both opera and regular musical productions. Their dedication to this amazing project is truly remarkable and speaks to their professionalism, work ethic and love of performance.

The cast of Red Hook Perform (L to R) L Makebish, Elizabeth Lococo and Natalie  LeBossier

 Photos by Deborah Temple

Trevor Kowalsky as Degas in ‘Degas in New Orleans

The production photos indicate the quality of the scenic design, the staging and the sheer beauty of the dramatic rendering thus far created by the director’s artistry and skill. The period costumes and set pieces were generously supplied by Montgomery Place, the Center for Performing Arts Center at Rhinebeck, Bard College, and other local sources.  The Pit Orchestra is made up of Red Hook Central students and teachers.  Production staff, technical support, and set construction staff are a combination of professionals, students, parents, and Red Hook alumni.

Tickets are selling fast. But you can call Bard Fisher Center’s Ticket Office to purchase tickets.

WHEN:  THURSDAY, December 18 and FRIDAY, December 19 at 7:00 p.m.
Tickets are $10.00/$8.00 students and seniors available in advance for Thursday and Friday night performances at the Fisher Center Box Office, 845-758-7900/6822 and sold at the door. Click on the dates (December 18, December 19) in the calendar for tickets.
WHEN:  SATURDAY, December 20 at 7:00 p.m. and SUNDAY, December 21 at 3:00 p.m. at Red Hook Central High School.
Tickets are $10.00/$8.00 students and seniors. Tickets for the Saturday and Sunday performances will be available at the door at Red Hook High School.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Writings while at Omega

First Omega Writing


I think I feel inadequate in most situations. I mean I talk to a counselor every week about how to make decisions. I always weigh everything moving back and forth with alternatives like dipping in and out of different ponds, one will hit me, this pond is the best, coolest, warmest, or cleanest or safest or deepest.

Recently a colleague invited me to her place in Cape Cod. I had to weigh, figure out how long I’d be there; my first impulse was to say yes which weekend and just go. But then I thought about the bedroom whether the house was air-conditioned even if the bath was close, how far were they from the beach, were the pillows soft, how would I amuse myself, how much would I have to spend to take her to dinner, how would I amuse myself, was there a place to write? Who else would be there? Would the other artists be up to my level? Would I end up having to teach? Why was community important anyway? Hadn’t I had enough already? Would this colleague even have time for me if she were teaching classes all day? If my husband went, would he get along with her husband? Didn’t this colleague invite everyone up to her place? I mean I hardly knew her.

Couldn’t I do better staying home and just writing without going out and all these distractions of a new place. Wow it tired me just to think about it.

I could talk myself out of a new friend or any opportunity. What if Bob (my husband really hated it. What if he had to leave and get a hotel room? How far would we be from the beach? Which weekend would be best? (Repeated thoughts confirming my insecurity.

Was it wise to go alone with these ankles? Who else would want to go with me? Could Bob amuse himself when I was in workshop. Pretty much the vitality was fading now. I was becoming tired, not enthused by the thought. I recall a friend who had gone to a similar place on a similar visit and she didn’t like it. Said it was not illuminating like Omega. If I got to know this new colleague I would see her flaws. She wouldn’t b4e a saint to me and I couldn’t worship her from afar.

I had difficulty breathing for a second. There was a chasm between the seekers and the sought after. Couldn’t I stay alone and keep writing and be satisfied and try not to befriend someone further along in the journey. If this colleague were further along why would she want to give time to me? Was she trying to make money off me? Was this a set up so I would later take her class? Surely she has so much more money than me we wouldn’t shop in the same places.

Was I interested in her because she was older, seemed to know more like the seniors in high school. Was I just befriending her because she knew rich important people who might finance my writing?

Oh lord all these reservations were clouding my vision. Reservations kept me from acting. A certain amount of research is good. But you could spend your life running between pools.

I felt insecure about going to Ecuador with this friend in seventh grade and I’ve always regretted not seeing the Galapagos turtles. I let my fear overwhelm me. I was afraid to leave my parents and home and go with my best friend and family to he home there. I now see that would have been a fantastic experience. But my parents coddled me and soothed my fears so I didn’t go.

Many times I have imagined those Galapagos turtles that Williams eulogizes in suddenly last summer and I see as a writer I need to see those seeds for new seeds to my work and life.

Practically speaking you give others a chance and new vistas appear more delicious than not.

I know Emily Dickinson never went anywhere but she did practice writing poetry a lot. “I never saw a wave. I never saw the sea…must be.”

Probably this fear of making a quick decision comes from years of women having the second or last choice.

Second Omega Writing

Dinner at our House

I was rich, but didn’t know it; seared porterhouse steak, peppered, salted almost flaming brought in on a silver tray placed by servants in front of Dad, shining silver platter; feeling sick to stomach, how do you talk to him; an unfeeling man, you had to get him at the right moment. Ma said usually right after dinner steamed corn on the cob, sterling corn holders, buttered garlic bread passed around; served on the right, cleared from the left. Servants in wilted whites; cook with starched jacket popped open unpressed. Ma got the servants deodorant, but Dad didn’t want to spend too much on the uniforms and they hated wearing them; kept them downstairs in servants quarters, along with ironing board, spray starch and snuck to their broken red and blue trucks, or dad’s discarded old cars to drive home. Buttered peas and yes little almonds in silver dishes by the original Blue Willowware plates (everyday china). Ma to Dad’s left smiling, by saying nothing as he complained about a bill, a daily communicant, rising at six to go to Mass and read Theard de Chardin. Oh god didn’t she want to scream at him. He was insulting her again. Get me out of here. Somebody please! Homemade peach ice cream. Yum. Yum. Fresh chocolate pudding; home made whipped cream chicory coffee and yes we’re in Mississippi. Our front the Gulf of Mexico, a hot sun. In 2005, that water would flatten it all. Leveling the big house with twelve-inch walls, turning the 50 acres into a briar patch with snakes scrambling over each other at the front of the drive.

But oh the food on that table, broccoli with cheese, and sweet potatoes with melted marshmallows a top, homemade biscuits made from scratch. The chauffeur driving to get chilled blue Nun wins and putting it in chilled baccarat glasses. Dad ringing a bell for each new course. So many rules: no swimsuits at table, no raising of the voice, no discussing private issues while the help were in the room and oh goodness don’t bring your plate to the kitchen. The help were there for that. Say may I be excused? Say your grace before meals don’t eat till everyone is served. Don’t scrape your plate. But mostly don’t defend yourself or talk too much. Kids were only allowed at the main table when older than 10. It was a special honor to engage in adult conversation. Mostly Dad talking about his money and investments and slyly undercutting Mother. She had been a rich debutante and he worked his way from the streets. “I lived between a bar and a parking lot,” he’d say Mad had had gold) 14k) diaper pins

Dad wanted the glamour but didn’t want to pay for it. Ma never balanced an account. Just asked him for money when she overdrew.

I never knew my father, till he was old and senile, and happy to smile at me deaf though he was and listen to me to talk although he couldn’t hear. “Bring your friends to supper,” he would say, “as many as you want. Ma watched and his only Companions were the servants, who had been trained not to talk. He sat at the 12’empty table (at the opposite end, looking out, rolling his napkin ring, saying, “I’m a little deaf.”


The hardest thing is writing about the hardest thing. I get my coffee, line up my pencil, get a side glass of ice water. Hardest thing is silence. Death, death, and more death. Nothing to say. Pleasantries, excuses, jokes, past history, forgiveness. What to say? Nothing, nothing, and more nothing. Burying my mother. I guess. Harder I thought stay in the present. Don’t think of her young Sit on the sofa by the casket, protect her body so sweet in her favorite peacock blue suit, the lace hankie covering the bruises from the i. v.s on her hands. Her face now younger, less wrinkles, is it the filler or the absence of tubes in her nose. The lip were never that full and pink and rather beautiful. She looks now like I remember her as a child. On the sofa opposite me, my aunt Roma sits. She is a year younger than Mom, Ma’s first friend and last. She’s so much stronger now, full faced, hipped her husband had died young and a fortune had buffeted her. Does she think she’ll be?

I’m dressed right, black suit, pumps, nylon house. Be the person your mother would want you to be. Stay present. She was gone pieces; like little deaths each day, thoughts gone, bodily functions gone, first the cane then the walker then the wheel chair, then the bed, portable toilet, bed pan. The last time I visited she was immobile on her bed like a marble statue in a sheet. I asked if she knew she and me heaved pushing out bubbles from her mouth. Dad behind me peeking through the door saying,” What will we do with mother? He had said he was only staying alive to take care of her but now she was dead and he was still alive

The hardest thing is getting old in America. You can’t count on anyone even yourself to be in the same place. ) Broken ankles brought me to a nursing home where there’s a sign. Don’t defecate or cough or expectorate in the pool. What’s that? I’m moving my feet two hours a day in that warm women and hearing women in their 80s talk about all their hip replacements, ear, replacements, knee replacements, spinal injuries, infected cataracts, swollen shoulder and lymph glands.
The wild ones still ride run in marathons though they walk with a limp, drop their cans off (to collect the recycle fees) clip coupons for old meat discounted n the grocery.

Only women are in the pool. Except one husband who holds on to a pin styrophone tube while his wife pulls or leads him around the parameter of the pool. That says something. Either we’ve outlived the men or they’re too frightened to come. His wife leads one elderly professor with Parkinson’s around the pool. He hold the end of a Styrofoam tube and she the other while he walks the perimeter. The pool is four foot deep. Still one 80- yr. old Irish woman almost drowned when someone mistakenly made her take her take her floater off. When you leave the pool, you walk past a sea of blue, gray haired women sprinkled with men, drinking wine by a sign that announces birthdays, long anniversaries.

What do these people talk about? One woman that I used to know from Church wanders about the lobby looking for something to do or say. Another plays a puzzle and sits by the front door as if looking for someone a third positions outside in a rocker comments on the weather.

Now I want to be someone different. I’m going to position myself in a position where I have to give, where I use my talents, dear god please let my intellect grow. It’s the harder choice to force yourself to do things with broken ankles, broken hip, broken family, broken car, broken phone in a broken America. But what’s the alternative. So we must say life, life and more life. Even if it means we go forth impaired and alone. The fan rattles in the dining hall a knife clicks on an old plate at Omega. These things bring joy and too are old.

Third Writing

I should have known when I entered that NYC playwriting workshop that sending out emails about my play readings would, make people hate me, I should have known that I was a great writer and should have known that the competition was so rough the other writers might want to destroy me. I should have known the director of my piece was an insecure double crossing bitch and her love for my writing would vanish on other’s destruction. I should have known the market is saturated with playwrights reading, sending, subscribing, introducing shorter and shorter scenes of their work to get it seen.  I think there is now a 2-minute play and I know the 10-minute vehicle is taking over America. I should have known there was no money in Playwriting. Weren’t all the playwrights going into TV? I should also have known it’s a youth market.  Isn’t 30 the mid career writer now? I should have known that you need time to do yet another draft, and hungry eyes, lean pocketbooks and vampires wanting to parasitize your talent were begging on every corner.

I should have known that the sharks dominate those playwriting studios where actors pour their hearts out (why is pain seen as profound and humor not)

I should have know how many people make money off artists; teaching, producing, editing, rewriting photographing, binding, coaching and that any one of those professions would be more lucrative.

But I didn’t know that and so it’s taken me 25 years 25 years to keep writing the saleable piece, 25years to run a theatre and teach, 25 yeas to get published and then you break your ankle, you lie on your back keep writing in bed because you have learned to love it. Then magically I should have known some stranger finds your play on line and magically the universe sees it’s produced.

I should have known someone else was guiding me all along. All along my stories were teaching me, lifting me, releasing me, clearing me, making the path. Oh god just let me keep the old girl walking, writing reaching up.

I should have known writing would bring me joy, lift the curtain, make the blind girl see; with writing I’m never alone in the emergency room I’m writing in recovery I’m writing in the ambulance. I’m taking notes. Seeing god.

I should have known writing was the god in me; writing is the nasty friend, writing is the missing partner, child, colleague. Writing that little girl still trying to see what is it I’m suppose to do before I die. Writing is the pen, the paper, the computer, the tape recorder that helps me see make everything bearable, keeps life in perspective makes me get up early, tells me time is running out. It’s the tick tock of life you start to see. The alarm going off in your car. The darling husband you forgot to like.

Gobble gobble gobble; writing gobbles up the days maybe one third of this page will survive the next pen surgery when I go thru. Striking lines, sticking in smells, sights, sounds; maybe if I keep writing god will let me stumble into something forgotten seething smoking looming bouncing beneath the surface. God I hope so. I hope this sacrificial paper is not just for shredding. If only I could illuminate myself not see my flaws but save time save time save time. Help others see. In this youth-driven America, writers are seers, the grandmothers, the teachers, the wizards, the priest therapists.

I should have known being a writer is actually like being a nun. Kind of wonderful the black robes, the ghostly chanting, the candle flickering in the gothic church under the moon, all of us humming, and filing and preaching together.

Fourth Reading A Time You Weren’t Invited

I wasn’t invited back into Stella Adler’s Advanced Acting Class. I cried and didn’t answer the phone for 2 weeks. She was the guru of NYC Stanislavski training, part of the royal three, Strasberg, Hagen, and Adler.

I had commuted from Princeton into Stella’s class in NYC with suitcases of props for my psycho-realistic scenes; I had dissected each line of memorized text for my action, objective, obstacle, inner image. I had written the character history: who am I? Where am I what time is it? What am I doing? What do I want? What’s in the way?

I had rehearsed in the Bronx, Queens, upper west side, Brooklyn, Soho with actor strangers, always rushing to their places because only one scene partner would take the train all the way to Princeton. I had a Ph.D., was teaching college (actually actress-in-residence was my official title. I had read Stella’s book four times, even attended class the Tuesday before I was married, and asked for an excuse to go to my own wedding. I had learned how to wok myself into an emotional pitch quietly sitting in class while the actors in the scene before mine emoted. Between scenes you only had one minute to set up your scene furniture; if you couldn’t get into character quick, wow you weren’t admitted back into class. This made for a lot of pathological colleagues, the most brilliant one now in Belleview.

I couldn’t believe I had been rejected while my scene partner Pete (tall, gorgeous) once Clint Eastwood’s understudy had been accepted. He was wooden, contemporary guttural in Shakespeare and his line readings were stiff. The variety that came though rehearsal testing listening watching was noticeably. Pete was a manager of a deli/restaurant and entertained nightly. Red Flag.

I couldn’t believe Stella didn’t like me. Should I take classes at her studio that didn’t require an audition when I was the head of the acting program of my college? Sneak around actors in leotards going ma, mei, me mo moo or squats in place. I was young and beautiful brilliant, not humble yet, but I was being kicked out.

Why? Why? Why? On reflecting there are 11 roles for men to one role for woman. 2. I didn’t socialize. Pete had rented later purchased a summerhouse by Stella’s 3. For every man that auditioned for anything in class or scene or play 25 women showed up who could sing dance act (the triple threat) and were often more beautiful than me. My agent had showed me his book of shockingly gorgeous clients and said I have 40 girls who like you, (pageboy haircuts, turtle necks, short skirts to expose the leggy flesh) then he said, “What do you that’s different? I said? What I do that’s different I gave up. (I had worked hard to kill all traces of being Southern. (I had cut my hair, standardized my speech, saying “her” not “huh,” “there” not “they-ah,”“morning”, not “mawnin.” He said, “Well get it back.”

Long story short I returned to New Orleans, founded a theatre where I could produce Southern Plays reclaimed my Southern accent. Became a Southern writer because I could practice it, be unique, and writing was cheaper (Actors need new resumes, dance, voice fencing classes…need I go on. Writers just need a pencil.

Okay looking back I wasn’t invited into most plays I auditioned for. I mean 500 girls auditioning for one role, what are the odds. I was an auditioner not an actor.

Writing allows me to talk aloud. I thought writers hid. Now people keep saying get up and read your work. I love your accent. Tell me about yourself and they listen whereas when I auditioned, it was “Show me something. You got 2 minutes.”

 You could read the play, memorize the audition side (actors at Yale are taught to do that in 5 minutes, wait in line for an hour (having gotten there early to get a slot) have to read with the stage manager (peeping quietly your cues.) And then in the midst of a practiced “tell me about yourself response,” hear the fatal words, “Next. Or, “We’ll call you.”

I wasn’t invited into the world of acting but I drove myself through the gates of writing.

Fifth Meditation

I am present to what is here for me now. I breathe deep into the uncertainty. I am alone, old ancient for a writer), two feet off the ground. So many artists I thought who have been ahead of me or beside me or behind me catching up have gone. A bird whistles. Who is that? My friend, the poet is in France. My god I thought we’d be running out own studio the one I started, now closed. She moved across the pond—Europe. Does everyone slows down in a warmer climate? My best friend from school evolving into a real Floridian whatever that is (it’s a careful more real pace); my three children sprouting wings all over the US, Ashland, Phoenix, Kansas. How do you throw out a net to keep everyone in the same place?

      Are we meant to stay grounded in one place? Again the bird whistle. Is it someone who has passed? My friend, a playwright colleague who looked up smiling at me in the waiting room of the Cancer Center is gone. How slowly are quickly did she go? Is she still suffering? Has she been diminished to a bird, free but far?

      My feet are raised on the bed, left one weak, but I can stand with a cane, and I can paint. I’ve had two quick passes with death (both cancer.) Were there others I didn’t recognize? In this circle of souls we are trying to move forward, but forward to where? Should I keep writing hoping for genius to pop out like some strange bird unrecognizable to myself or should I relax deeper into the breath, the quiet, the throat already tense. Again the bird. I hear people talking in another place. I want to stay in the present, not go back or forward, disregard the pain in my head, the sore chest, the stiff back.

      How conscious can anyone be? What is the inner god world we are all to find? Someone sniffs back a tear in the circle. I don’t want to die alone. One day the judgment will come. The sweet smiling doctor won’t say, “This is serious. You’re on the border of a difficult journey,” he’ll say you’ve got 5 days to live. My god the birds are whistling, cawing as if celebrating that thought; a thrill of sound now; are those friends welcoming me to the land beyond, higher up or deeper in.

    “Passing” I hate that word. Who wants to pass from life? It’s great, grand, wonderful with arias from “La Boheme”, paintings from Renoir, chocolates from Godiva. The touch of soft velvet and leather and the taste of mushrooms, soft and spicy and fresh greens with balsamic dressing, and grits with butter. Again someone is sniffing. Is she nearer to death than me?

      The only reason I would want to die was if I knew, coward like, living meant burying one my children or having to be in agony of pain. Or, a vegetable in a nursing home, head bobbing on my chest in front of a soundless TV or over a paper I can’t read with glasses falling off my nose, or with feces in my bedpan unremoved for an hour? But even so how can we” pass” to a something state we don’t know. We see body in the earth, we see people lighthearted lifting our spirits, do we lift up? Lift up to what, where; has anyone definitively determined where God is.

    I think it’s amazing the search for god, and when I’m writing I’m not oscillating back and forth like a fan, I’m totally happy. I’m so focused in the present on just letting god come through my fingers. I’m okay. Hip hip hooray, like Monet painting in the fields while bombs dropped on France knowing his purpose was to paint. He just kept on going. Again someone with a really deep sniff.

     God I wish I was profound. You’d think with all this writing, I’d hit some gold go deep. Am I just a shallow net trolling for gems; well thank god I haven’t hit a shark. Still no answers just a sense of god in me as I write and thankfulness for being on this side, two feet on the ground that work.

Sixth Meditation

Sound of plane ahead getting louder, loud flipping wings leading me to Conchi my sister-in-law dead from breast cancer. God it could have been me. She floats before me through thick, viscous clouds smiling serene. I can’t catch up. She is leading me somewhere but do I want to be led? Blurry fog to the left and right and below me. Am I already dead? I’m out of breath, leaning down, she vanishes again. Then pops up. Oh I would like to talk to her; we only talked once those last six months when she got the terminal report. She rolled into her cocoon bed, surrounded by her close chosen few, (her kids and husband) I wasn’t one. I wasn’t invited into the inner circle of her death, in the hope against hoping of her need to stay alive.

Now she is young like I remembered her, full haired, lithe; not like the last picture my brother took, full smile, baldhead with frizz, big cream framed glasses. I never recalled her face being so small inside those frames. Smile almost over the face as if it had to hold up the jaw. How many “hope to stay alive pills and vitamins” was she taking, 70, 80, 12 an hour?

Maybe she was sick of it all and wanted to scream at her long armed young daughters, let me go. Where did Conchi travel to in that dark of the moon place, in those dark hours in her cocoon bed, hoping to get the energy to maybe eat one nice dinner again or stay awake one more hour. At the end she was awake four hours a day and so thrilled to have that.

What am I doing with my 24-hour days, 18 of them wide awake. Am I using them or zoning out on some useless TV show and staying with people who bore me. What am I eating relishing each day, what am I drinking and delighting in: fresh chicory coffee, real cream, ice tea with fresh mint from the garden, a New Orleans Bloody Mary with pickles, hot beans, carrots, celery--a vegetable drink in tomato sauce?

 Conchi loved the angels. Has she become one? Often I feel her around me, so happy saying nothing just there. Why do we blanket death with so much sorrow and evil? My husband says we never see birds’ corpses on the ground because buzzards and other wild animals scoop them up quickly and take them off.

I want to fall apart and be scooped up quickly. The me of me doesn’t think I’ll die or when I have this thick presence of myself inside myself I’m not afraid to die. Still that’s fine when you’re not writing from a death knell state, when the doomed faces of doctors a, b, c, d, e are not looking down. They come in groups on hospital judgment day, to bear the news—of your death. Do they even say the word,  “death?”  I can’t remember. I think it’s “It doesn’t look good, we’re not sure we got it all, we’ve done all we could, now.” Who is in charge here, I want to scream. “How many days hours minutes seconds do I have?”

A bird caws swinging through the air. Again the picture of Conchi before me. Others have taken this journey up. When I fly through the clouds sometimes I imagine people inside the big puffs but even in that metal tube high up cushioned by the thought that in bad weather the orange mask fall down, I want to scream out, “Not now.” My aunt 92 screamed out her dying words. “I can’t go now. I’ve so much more to do.”

I don’t feel god is in the head, I think he’s in the experience of being held up by viscous soft filmy clouds like sweet cotton candy delicious to the taste, sliding by like velvet. In the feeling of floating or being held up by the hands of Conchi and others who have gone before and the wee ones toddling behind.

Conchi’s daughter’s face is lined with tears and grief so many wrinkles on the face of this young woman, who now has mantled her schizophrenic sister formerly held tight to Conchi’s side.
And my brother has a new fiancĂ©, found in his grief group a woman who got to him before the casserole brigade by asking him to take her to weekly mass. Her husband had dropped dead same time as Conchi and this widow was already wise enough to see opportunity in the funeral workshop. They have visited over 20 churches in their pursuit of god and believe their dead spouses created their new alliance. Maybe so, maybe not. But to quote Will, “Death once done there is no more dying now. “ Maybe that’s why Conchi is smiling.

Seventh Reading

The box. It’s brown, cardboard, hard to the touch. Do I want to open it? No, could be something dangerous. From Conchi to me. She died 2 years ago.

       Everyone in the circle here is crying about some lost love. Oh god it’s awful. Does writing mean I have to open up the empty box of myself, throat dry.

     Look I want to laugh, that’s why I write. I want to escape to not think about who’s next on the death list. I mean we’re all in the room, going to die. I don’t want to see my ancestors. I have lost the pictures that were on the walls of my New Orleans  home; all drowned out in hurricane Katrina. Yes I recall Ellen Quail Grandma’s mother. A pale beauty, icy skin, hair in a bun, a colored photograph of a woman died of breast cancer. something a hundred years later I survive. Is she whispering through me as we gallop into the 21st century?

     I recall Grandma telling me about her mother, they drove in a horse and buggy hearses with the casket behind to the graveyard, and her Dad said, “This is Mam’s last ride.” A century ago or maybe not even that and the experience seems antique. But maybe it’s the silence that shroud death. My young great grandma always looked old to me in the photo or was it a miniature, but I have way lived longer.

     All those whispering women that went before howling or shrinking quietly inside death. I never knew them, spoke to them, heard them. I know somehow they are in my veins and I must speak my truth because it’s theirs but my words shake in my mouth, so small, tweak, chirp, small inside the power of death. 

    “Because I could not stop for death, he kindly stopped for me.” Emily Dickinson. God she drove about in a carriage too and always wore shite and never left her house, but my she dove deep, I experience my soul when I am quietly secure embraced by an inner peace that slips in and out, and comes to me unexpected, sliding over me like a glove or a warm towel or an electric blanket just the right warmth.

     But oh I don’t want to draw back the covers on my sister-in-law’s casket or open the box of her disappeared memories or call back my ancestors in their carriages less they appear suddenly and scoop me up and rip me away. When I write I write for comedy to find the joy, the laugh, the loop hole that puts toys in the box.

    I think you can read your way to god, or breathe your way, or thank your way but in the presence of an empty box I don’t know…what is it? Not an empty box but a vessel for me to fall. Didn’t Emily have that box with 3000 poems at the foot of her bed? That have scattered peace and compassion and insight all over the earth. No she has flown to the sky. Not one was published, not one was chosen one let the house but somehow they made heir way to god. The ancestral women were breathing behind her. Swoosh we all fly.

Eighth Reading

I keep falling asleep during meditation, zone out, lone gone. Wow. Is that what death will be life for me. Wonder what great-grandma’s (the one with breast cancer) goodbye words were. She had a mirror and compact by her bed, and Grandma said when she went into visit her, Ellen Quail, her Ma knocked over the mirror and it broke into thousands of pieces. Her mother said, “Did the mirror break?” (A broken mirror meant death—the worstest of worse bad luck) Ellen Quail was Irish. My Grandma said, “No, Ma, the mirror didn’t break.” At 18, she already knew how to lie to the shaken. But her heart fell and she knew her mother was doomed. Question: 1) How could Ellen Quail not have seen the broken mirror pieces? 2) How did my Grandma sneak in to pick them up?
My grandma is speaking through me now. She was terrified of death. Made me and everyone promise we would not tell her when she was going to die. We should go in the room, and throw up the blinds, and let in the light and give her hope. “No hope” she said, “is like a lance through the heart.”

She saw death in many superstitions: a bird in the house, a hat on the bed, 13 at table (Christ was the 13th and the youngest and died.) If 13 showed up for Sunday dinner at her grand table, presto, all would stop and the table would be divided and reset.

Oh yes dreams of teeth meant someone would die. (Dreams of death were okay they could mean marriage.) Funerals and graveyards should be avoided. Grandma only went to 3 funerals in her life; her parents’ and her husband’s. If you had a house across from a cemetery, the ghosts could come over and get you.

Now what are my superstitions? I don’t like birds (one flew onto the table when my husband and I went out to dinner,) and I insisted we move inside. I mean a sparrow pecking at table is freaky. I mean didn’t Poe know this? “Quoth the Raven Never More.” That Raven on the post of his door was cawing and screaming, “Death is here.”

         Grandma couldn’t stop death.  “Death, death, and more death.” She lived to 88, and fired terror in her grandchildren. All these superstitions are just shields with no power. Unmask the fear Rosary; “speak the speech I pray you trippingly on the tongue.” Keep writing but don’t turn out the lights.

Is this fear of the dark not all the grandmothers whispering at us let your voice your stronger self come out?

Ninth Reading

So I keep falling asleep. My head falls back. I nod off; find my drooped to the side. I hear someone say go deeper deeper. Breathe in. I fall off again nodding. You can begin to write, but write what for whom. It takes so much time. I am sleeping. Does all this sleep improve anything? If I don’t get enough sleep will sleepless hours stack up and then I’ll need a week, just to put myself in a trance and go there.

I imagine a life with no touching. Could be ok, when little I would like in bed next to my Mother; she had this long hair to her waist long wavy brown hair. I used to like to touch it. I’d lie in bed next to her and hold onto her hand to fall asleep and i felt safe and so secure. This peaceful serenity when your nom is there. I miss her; it’s been 14 years since she died but when I breathe in and out and look at my face n the mirror, it’s starting to look like hers and I used to thin she was old. I didn’t miss sex as a child and so why would I miss it when I got older except that the rush of sex felt great, that rush of warmth between the legs, the need to have it somehow stopped and released. Oh my goodness the sweet lushness of it. But do I want it that bad, no I don’t want I more than writing, writing is a slower more peaceful way to drain myself and feel myself with god. It’s a sacrificial life.  You deny yourself sleep, fun chatting, or shopping, and like a monk you gird yourself and write your experience of life. You write although you know the depth of your conversation on the page isn’t as good as George Elliot’s and the writing keeps you from friends and forces you into a battle with your own mind, thoughts; wouldn’t it be more fruitful to read philosophy or theology or psychology or history or Buddhism’s. Thee are so many truths waiting out there to be found. Mama has died. She won’t come back but weirdly when I think Mama she is there in a gentle whisper in a confidence in myself n a bravery implanted beyond the long ago, in the sturdy touch of my husband’s fingers in his too need for silence which I understand in the avoidance of gossip [, silly chatter, banalities, in the convent life of the writer accepting hoping that y small life will expand inside others in this invisible web of god. Friends of god, searchers for god through the talent we’ve been given.

Monday, May 26, 2014

One more review of my carnival book

By Kathleen Spivack on May 24, 2014
author of “With Robert Lowell and His Circle: Anne Sexton, Sylvia Plath, Elizabeth Bishop, Stanley Kunitz, others.” ISBN # 978-1-55553-788-3.University Press of New England 2012.
Reviewed in Goodreads

This book is an absolute must for any reader, scholar, reveler, tourist, historian, admirer, expatriate, resident or non- resident lover of this city. O’Neill writes for the obsessed lovers, whether unrequited or fulfilled, of the real and the imagined New Orleans. "New Orleans Carnival Krewes" describes social and political structure, past, present and future, and the history and mystery of the Carnival. Through Carnival, the author takes us in to the heart of the planning, the rituals, and the magic. O’Neill shows us the rituals; race, class and and membership. As in all of O'Neills books based on New Orleans, as well as her plays, we discover the lure of this half drowned city, still bravely calling to us with siren insistence.The author shows us how the rich traditions of New Orleans have been preserved.

Her work reveals tales of gentle care and family and district stewardship,. But it also finds perfidy, base betrayal, and illicit passions. Generations of feuds, murder even, seethe just below the surface of O'Neills celebration of her city and its writers and artists. In hectic gaiety the Mardi Gras proclaims the brevity of life: it rivals the city of Venice in its feverish celebrations. Professor O’Neill takes us behind the scenes, shows us the organizations and the planning, the oaths and scandals, the sexuality, the magnetism, the exclusions and the inclusions. And she describes some of the wonderfully artistic and original conceptions, some unbelievably wild and imaginative. We learn of their origins, ideas and their construction, and of the planning that goes into each detail of the citywide spectacle.

Archival illustrations accompany the history of progression of the city, its politics, and its Carnival. Prof. O’Neill is a specialist and knows her mysterious and legendary city intimately. The author open the doors to the magic of New Orleans, with its arcane rites and celebrations, its multi -cultural history and politics, its celebrations, its music, its peoples and joyous survival.

"New Orleans Carnival Krewes" as well as O'Neill's other works on her beloved city should be in everyone's travel kit: at any airport, hotel, restaurant , conference center, travel bookstore, or house of good or “ill “repute, as they say—wherever people might want a bit of time on their hands, unobserved, to absorb a very special city, its magnificent secret societies and rites and festivals, its febrile gaiety, its influence on art and literary production, and of course,its thrilling shadow-side.

Monday, May 19, 2014

Yet another Carnival book review

(This time an Editor's pick for Technorati)

by Carole DiTosti
May 18, 2014

Review Overview

Summary : 'New Orleans Carnival Krewes' by Rosary O'Neill reveals the traditions, the secret societies, the history and the evolution of how New Orleans and Mardi Gras came to be as integral to each other as red beans and rice, an emblematic dish of Louisiana Creole cuisine.

Carnival is an ancient festivity with traditions harkening back to Roman Catholic Europe. Carnival is steeped in majesty and mystery, revelry and masking (wearing costumes and dancing). It is a time for excess, for feasting, drinking, and indulging all of the senses. Carnival occurs before Lent and is a complete blowout because Lent is the penitential season when one is supposed to expiate the fleshly body’s hungers by prayer and abstinence from certain food, drink, and other activities. The idea is that by giving up something you love for Lent,  the soul and the spirit can be made stronger to appreciate and remember Christ’s death and resurrection at Easter.

We don’t celebrate Carnival in the US. We have something better - Mardi Gras. New Orleanians have transformed Carnival into their own unique creation which is an affirmation of community, family, and all the greatness and passion that life offers. Unlike Europe’s Carnival, Mardi Gras isn’t only about that special time when the tourists come down to party. It is an extravaganza that continues for a good part of the year. The preparations, social networking, grandstanding by different ethnic and economic groups, the plans  for the parades and balls, and courts and banquets are the cultural fabric of New Orleans and all aspects of its society.

These behind the scenes activities, as well as the traditions and the spirit of this celebration are illuminated by a fascinating book recently published about Mardi Gras and New Orleans by Rosary O’Neill, New Orleans Carnival Krewes.  As a native New Orleanian O’Neill is able to bring credibility and interest to her revelations about the secret traditions and the secret societies that have been the underpinnings of the history of New Orleans and the drama and revelry of Mardi Gras. Her investigations reveal how Mardi Gras is New Orleans; there is no differentiating one from the other. Mardi Gras has come to fuel and energize the city. The various cultures, ethnic groups, and social classes with their values, mores, and attitudes, in turn have created Mardi Gras and made it evolve into an ever-changing historical and cultural phenomenon.

In revealing this intricate dynamic, O’Neill has contributed vital ideas to help us better understand this city that tourists and newly minted residents find elusive. She discloses the never-before-seen or recognized elements of social tradition and folkways; it is a place of familial generations unlike most cities in the US. This generational aspect of the city’s culture and society and how it has been sustained to its benefit and to its woe offers new insights into appreciating what makes New Orleans so incredible. It also helps elucidate how Hurricane Katrina and the aftermath were both a great blessing and an irretrievable loss for the city.

O’Neill explores how the secret societies established by and within the Mardi Gras social structure propelled discriminatory practices toward groups that were ostracized by the ruling elites and prosperous social circles. She also reveals how this changed and thus began the gradual democratization and inclusion so that diverse groups were able to participate in the parades and join some of the Krewes (a more recent occurrence). She touches upon how and why the social and cultural groups fueled by Mardi Gras maintained entrenched political and economic systems which divided the city, ironically enriched it but also endangered it. All was brought to bear during and after Hurricane Katrina.

O’Neill has written an amazing work about New Orleans and Mardi Gras.  To understand the history of New Orleans you must also understand how Mardi Gras is inseparable from the city in its beauty, its racial issues, its secret societies, its roots in folklore, its parochialism, its near destruction by Hurricane Katrina, and its resurrection as it burgeons today. New Orleans Carnival Krewes is an account that will entertain and enlighten from beginning to end. And if you visit after reading this comprehensive and interesting work,  you will have a deeper understanding of how the phrase, “Let the good times roll,” is faithfully followed and embraced by New Orleanians year round.

Saturday, May 17, 2014

Yet another Amazon review of my carnival book

I picked this up for research on a novel I'm working on. My wife and I had our honeymoon in New Orleans, years before Katrina, and so I've always been fascinated with the city--even though I'm not a resident. That said, I had NO idea about the extensive history of Maris Gras and the krewes behind it. What an incredible journey into an exclusive subculture the rest of the country (or world) likely has no idea about. For lovers of history, revelry and the Big Easy--check this out.

From what I can see, no other author has been able to have such incredible access to these secret societies and she does a delicious job in lifting the veil. Well done!

--Christopher Grey

Friday, May 16, 2014


What is your approach to teaching your craft?

What does art or creativity mean to you?

How important is art in our lives?
Very important. It gives life meaning, happiness and joy when we observe/participate/experience something unique and different and beautiful. ART IS SPIRITUAL: BEAUTY THAT BRINGS US TO GOD.

How do you celebrate art in your own life?
When not researching and writing my own plays or novels, I enjoy an evening of theatre, a beautiful song on the radio or cd player or watching academy award nominated movies. I AM ADDICTED TO LISTENING TO OPERA NOW AS I WRITE MY THIRD NOVEL. IT PUSHES ME INTO EMOTIONAL AND VISUALAWARENESS OF MY CHARACTERS; ART IS FOOD FOR THE SOUL. EVERY NIGHT EVERY MORNING OUR SOUL IS HUNGRY AND WE HAVE TO FEED OUR CHILD SELF AND MAKE IT GROW

Do you have any favorite quotes about art or creativity you would like to share?

There is a fountain of youth: it is your mind, your talents, the creativity you bring to your life and the lives of people you love. When you learn to tap this source, you will truly have defeated age.
---Sophia Loren



Creativity is more than just being different. Anybody can plan weird; that's easy. What's hard is to be as simple as Bach. Making the simple, awesomely simple, that's creativity. 
--Charles Mingus

Art is not what you see, but what you make others see.
--Edgar Degas



Be who you are and say what you feel because those who mind don't matter and those who matter don't mind.
--Dr. Suess