Tag Archives: Sweet Can Productions

Rallying for love in a world-wide blizzard

Finding ways to bond together in an age of “hyper-individualism ”

People dare to be comfortable with uncertainty if they are in solidarity with each other.”

– Joanna Macy speaking of the Work that Reconnects

My father told me a wonderful story about being in Chicago, on business, during a blizzard. He was staying in a hotel and, because everything was shut down and there was no electricity, people bonded who otherwise would not have had anything to do with each other. Beds and portable lights were set up in the ballroom of the hotel.  Meals and drinks were shared.  By laughing, joking and singing, strangers broke down that invisible wall to befriend one another.  When the snow let up and airport connections could be made, people went back to not knowing one another and went about their business. It confounded my dad, who was sure that the group intimacy they had shared would linger. Convention and profit margins magnetized the folks he had met back into being strangers as they scrambled to catch their taxis and flights.

Currently, it feels like we are in the midst of a worldwide, social blizzard. While one group is pitted against another, and commercial tactics and fear are breeding what Joanna Macy calls hyper-individualism, good folks are magnetized into becoming strangers, even to themselves.

We are in need of scenarios in which we come together to laugh, joke, sing and brake down that invisible wall to befriend one another.

With this aim in mind, my wife Julia and I started hosting a rally for LOVE in various places throughout the country. So far, we have held events in NY and CA. At both of these rallies, the intention was to bring various communities together to illuminate resources that allows us to stay connected as the world situation becomes overwhelming.

On the East Coast, there was a wide range of groups represented from an ethical culture society, a temple, a unity church, a wholeness center, Centers for Spiritual Living, The Interfaith Council, Science of Spirituality meditation centers, musicians, life coaches and even the Penguin Plungers, who brave the waters of the Hudson River in winter.

On the West Coast, the music was interspersed with acts from a network of circus performers who knew how to lighten our hearts. In the audience, there were teachers, authors, upcyclers, counselors, musicians, filmmakers, healers, potters, caretakers, and implementers of what Joanna Macy calls the Work that Reconnects.

The spirit of this rally was exemplified by Jaime Coventry, who was the M.C. for the night. In setting up the space just before the show, Jaime broke his pinky toe. He was so focused on the aim of the night, I had no idea he had injured himself. All he radiated was a gracious, gregarious and humorous benevolence.

Coventry & Kaluza

The success of both of these rallies was that the individuals who attended have continued to bond together after the event.

When asked why she does the work she does, Joanna Macy replied:             “I’m doing this work so that when things fall apart, we will not turn on each other.” To do this, she advises: “…little study groups, and book groups, make a garden together. Keep your ear to the ground. Inform each other. We have to develop the skill of finding that it is more fun to be waking up together, Sarvodaya [Sanskrit term meaning ‘universal uplift’ or ‘progress of all’], than a single lone star on the stage.”

When the daily news prompts you to run and hide, remember we are all on this stage together. We can still rally for LOVE!


A tale of two clown schools

Transformation is something that occurs within the space between recognizing we are not alone and that external blame is an illusion.
Relying on the past while guarding against projections of fear keeps us rooted in our smallest understanding.  We rise out of the ashes of our own misery and are capable of being clear and kind, which in itself is larger than life.
Last weekend, Julia and I collaborated with Sweet Can Productions to put on a circus show using the music of The Levins called Barely Contained.  It was well received and we felt very fortunate to be allowed to be a part of something that was so funny, beautiful and well, sweet. 
Our friends Jamie and Natasha have an incredible clown act called Coventry & Kaluza.  They are a part of Sweet Can Productions and coordinated this show.
Coventry and Kaluza
During the run, Jaime and Natasha went to see a show being put on by the students of a local clowning school. Jamie told us that there had been a rivalry between this school and the school where they had trained.  Their school put a strong emphasis on coming up with story lines and practicing the beats within that story to convey it clearly and simply to the audience. This other school taught its clowns to work on their individual characters, to discover idiosyncrasies to present to the audience. 
Jamie and Natasha’s teacher had criticized the teacher of this other school and the method he was teaching his students. This had started the controversy and subsequent rivalry.  Fortunately, their instructor finally went to see the other school to see for himself.  After that, he was able to tell his students that they were doing good work in the other school.  He could see the merit in the other method.
I just finished reading a wonderful book by Jeff Bridges and Bernie Glassman called The Dude and the Zen Master, which is a conversation between the two authors using Jeff Bridges’ character the Dude from the movie, The Big Lebowski as a jumping off point.
At one point in the book Bernie says he was taught that if something is not a paradox, it isn’t fully true.  There isn’t just one way of doing things correctly.
the dude and the zen master
Bernie: “…You’re helping people see that there is no one truth, that everything they believe or that others believe is just an opinion…We choose what we choose and then people have their opinions about it. Society may say, “you’re screwing yourself up…. Everybody has opinions… if I can really just be in touch with myself, I’m going to wind up doing things that are good for me and cause me the least pain.
Jeff: There are a number of spiritual traditions that say that you should treat the other person as God, or divine.  Turning that around, you should treat yourself the same way, and with compassion.
Bernie: That’s my opinion too. Just don’t wallow in self- pity.
Jeff: Sometimes I can give myself shit no matter which way I go.
Bernie: So the practice of befriending the self is a good one for you.”
I love this concept that there is more than one way of working through and that we can befriend our self in the process. This is especially important in my partnership with Julia.  We both have different approaches of working together that end up providing the needed balance to what we do. My tendency is to push and to go, go, go. Julia makes sure that we aren’t just spinning our wheels but are making traction with the ground.  She reminds me to take stock in what is going on so we can savor it. She helps me slow down to make sure things are done right.  I am pushing us to succeed, to “make it”.  Julia is striving to make sure that when we arrive, we have something to worthwhile to share.
Bernie: In Zen we say that the other shore is right here under our feet. What we’re looking for- the meaning of life, happiness, peace- is right here. So the question is no longer, how do I get from here to there? The question is: How do I get from here to here?
Jeff: I sense these two impulses. One says, Do, do, do, achieve, achieve, achieve. The other says, Sssssshhh, please relax. Do you want to spend the rest of your life doing some sort of never-ending homework assignment? Sssshhh.
Bernie: I always have this red nose in my pocket, and if it looks like I’m taking things too seriously, or the person I’m talking to is taking them too seriously, I put the nose on.
Jeff: Clownsville, man. Tightness gets in the way of everything, except tightness.
Bernie: Our work may be important, but we don’t take it too seriously.  Otherwise, we get attached to one relatively small thing and ignore the rest of life. *
This concept of opening up beyond tightness, to be able to see the paradox in everything and laugh at it keeps coming up so that I will embrace it.
Here’s to befriending ourselves so we can take stock of the fullness of our current picture and the beauty of everyone in it.
*- The conversation between Bernie and Jeff has been juggled in this article. It appears here slightly out of sequence.

Barely Contained with Sweet Can

“When the walls are plastered with headline disasters. Talking heads and newscasters predicting more rain, don’t go insane. Put some chocolate in your cup; take a sip from downside up.  Tarentella with a broom.  While you sing a little tune, sweep away the gloom. Sour can’t, sweet can. Sweet Can.” 
– The Levins
We are in Arcata, CA having passed over the tops of trees to get to a shore where we are free to clown around.  Julia and I are collaborating with our friends, the innovative and heart-lifting clown couple Coventry-Kaluza and two other astounding members of Sweet Can Productions, Zoe (Love Incarnate)  Klein and Jeremy (Chair Master) Vik.  Together we are presenting a show called Barely Contained.  That is just how I feel. 
Jamie on trashcan
Jaime Coventry, a Scottish gentle giant, as open as the horizon, said in this business the ‘name of the game’ is usually to have one routine or act and keep doing it, perfecting it over and over.  His wife and partner, Natasha Kaluza, a whirlwind force of hula-hooping comedic universal healing, and Jaime do have sigature routines that they continue to refine but they love to keep the gates of creativity open wide.  A pair of magic mills that churn out wonder.
Being with this troupe feels like being with super heroes.  They expand what is possible. There is an open invitation to play outside the fence of restricted convention. Even riding in an elevator where you feel that you are expected to observe the ackward silence, an extended foot may rise up in slow motion, inviting you to suspend the gravity of the moment. 
After working for a good eight hours, setting up the technical aspects of the show, we were all exhausted. This stripped away a layer of glamour from the notion of running away with the circus but not our awe.  There is so much love and dedication that goes into circus craft. It is a continuous refinement of body strength, cordination, flexibility, imagination, timing, skill as well as mental and soul endurence.  All to bring each new audience a heightened sense of life. Life as it can be, filled with joy, beauty and a dancing balance where everyone works together to kaliedescope hope into centered well-being. 
This is like being a part of a real medicine show without the hokum.  It’s the World Fair compressed into a temporal jem. We have already performed twice for local schools. We are going into our third preview this morning and our first public show is tonight. I will project you into the front row so you can be here to see it. 
May the love that you put into your day be a marvel that causes a passerby to loose and find their breath.
jeremy and natasha

Stream of Light 9-23-14 / Sweet Can Productions & The Levins World Folk Ensemble present: My Friend Hafiz

There are moments and days in our lives that we recognize as almost perfect.  Beautiful heavenly days.  While you can not hold onto them, you can draw from them and recall the serenity they provide to bring this moment into sharper focus.  Being grateful and recognizing what is sublime in our lives opens the door to more of the same.  There are always things within us that we can be grateful for.  By being in the state of conscious gratitude, not only do we recognize what is around us but we generate things to be grateful for and illuminate them for those around us.
“In the artistic community, we always talk about the transformative power of theater, music, and art, but I got to witness it first hand on the deepest level this weekend. Last night, a woman rushed down to Kerri Kresinski and me, and said, “That’s it. You did it. I’m going to quit my job. Life is too short to be miserable.” Ira Scott Levin said this show was the most important thing he’d ever done in his life. 
It seems like every show I’m in, becomes a part of the fabric of my being. What a marvelous piece to weave into my soul.” –
Natasha Kaluza
We were on the move again yesterday and today I can finally sit and reflect on what occurred this weekend.  We had a full week of rehearsals and only got everyone all in the same room to fully run our production of My Friend Hafiz by Sweet Can Productions with The Levins World Folk Ensemble on Thursday night. On Friday night as we opened, I stood there playing the songs and cried.
Somethings embrace synergy to such a high level that what emerges has always existed and always will.   I talk about time being spherical a lot, but it occurred to me that the reason the songs had come through and that we had recorded the album was for this very performance.  As the weekend progressed, we honed the show and the circle of musicians and the circle of circus performers  overlapped and spiraled up.  The thrust of the standing ovations was not just because the performers were so incredibly talented and that the clowns were so funny and that dances were so perfectly matched to bring the music and poetry forward but I believe the essence of what Hafiz achieved in his being somehow spilled over in a lighthearted pageantry of beauty and “benevolent thought, benevolent sound, benevolent movement around and around!”
Tomorrow is the Jewish New Year -may the circular nature of everything within you and around you be Sweet so that you know you Can shine out in the way you hope to.


Stream of Light 9-17-14 and the 3 chief delights of living.

In the midst of preparation remember who we are preparing for.  Each guest is our best self. In clearing a space, we are clearing it for what we hope to come into our lives.  The time we seem to sacrifice in this preparation and the stress we subject ourselves to can create imagined projections that lure us into webs of unhappiness.  Clear your center and be grateful for what you consciously invite into your world.  Training and grounding, years of study, centuries of wisdom always come down to this moment and the choice we make right now.  Each action can be our craft and a chance to perfect the clearing . 
We flew into to CA on Monday and watched the movie Chef on the plane.  Even though the trailer, tells you the story, it woke us up again to three of the chief delights of living: Loving what you do, Music and great food!  (You know when a vegetarian wants a cuban sandwich, the film was powerful.)  Driving into SF yesterday with the new bridge and palm trees standing against the canvas blue sky, cranking the Chef soundtrackwe were filled with new hope.  Certainly the resurgence of the Tech bubble in the area, has livened the city up but it was getting to rehearse at the Dance Mission Theater with dancers, acrobats and clowns dedicated to their art that solidified our good feeling.  There were even babies crawling around laughing, crying, being taken care of by various members of the troupe amidst spontaneous choreography being set and coffee from Cafe La Boheme next door being spilled as we marveled and appreciated the talents we each uphold and the miracle of  moving the production forward towards something we all believe in: a transcendent happiness that you can partake in and bestow.
Afterwards, we walked five blocks to 19th and Mission to Taqueria Cancun where they grill their tortillas and make one of our very favorite burritos in the city, (Well, there is Little Chihuahua with its plantain  burritos- oh! SF is a burrito mecca!)  I always think of that episode of MASH where they airlift Adam’s Ribs in all the way from Chicago because it is the places that cook authentic outrageously great food that fortify us in mythical ways.
Whatever you are preparing for this week,  may you be fortified and be able to bestow a natural joy that will stick to your ribs and your mind’s eye for many years to come!