Gratitude Never Grows Old

This post may seem a bit of a departure from the type typically seen here but for the season of the year we find ourselves in, I always find it good for the soul to reflect on just what thankfulness and gratitude really mean. Anne Lamott is one of my favorite writers primarily for her ability to address something with perfect ease. This is no exception. 

Gratitude Never Grows Old

by Anne Lamott

Gratitude turns what we have into enoughMany years ago, I wrote that gratitude, not understanding, is the key to joy and equanimity. I think this holds up. Understanding has not proven to be all that useful very often. But gratitude, thankfulness, that sense of having been helped, saved, seen, enriched by life, a good person, a lucky break is magic.

When we feel it, or even walk with it for part of every day, gratitude is a magnetic energy that draws people to us, because it is the most wonderful and attractive emotions. When you are with someone who has developed the habit of gratitude, you SO want what they have. They are not grasping for more. They are savoring, shaking their heads slightly with the quietest wonder. Gratitude contains a heightened and amazed realization of how much goodness is marbled into our strange and sometimes hard, annoying lives. This catches us by surprise as if we are children, and a sudden breeze is playing with our spirits, as if with paper planes, lifting us, restoring our sense of buoyancy, where before there was the opposite — the worried, the trudge, endless calculations and scheming, numbness.

Gratitude tugs on our sleeves and says, “Wake up!” Look around at the kindness that surrounds us, the love we are being shown, the hope that now makes sense. Emily Dickinson wrote that “hope inspires the good to reveal itself,” and we can be taken aback by a sense of amazement at how much someone has shared with us, or even sacrificed, for us, for cranky, secretive, mealy-mouthed you, and me.

Wow, you think: what’s the catch? No catch. No other shoe to drop. God only has one shoe. However, if you want to hold on to this warm feeling, you have to give it away, by passing it along to others. If you want to have grateful loving feelings, which is what heaven is like, you need to do loving things and help others experience life’s capacity for goodness and maybe even grace. This generous person or these people, these new circumstances, this fortune, helps us feel blessed, helps us experience life as meaningful instead of random, hopeful instead of fraught. We get to feel deeply touched, instead of armored, alive again.

Appreciation blooms in our heart, in our being, in the same lives with which we have had so many justified quibbles and complaints. I mean, don’t even get me started, right?

It’s a simple cloth coat resurrection nearly every time. Someone gave us kindness or a mitzvah, like you might offer someone a meal or a glass of cool water. And this opens our hearts, makes us want to share instead of hoard or protect. Feeling stingy makes us small, clenched, dark. Feeling that we have been blessed makes us feel expansive and light. It makes us generous. We make a little gasp of surprised appreciation when we feel grateful to someone, and this gives us more breath, which connects us back to life, where we now have plenty to share. Who knew? And this is why we were born: to live, to give, to receive, awaken, expand.

From the entire Commonweal family, we wish you a happy day of gratitude spent with those you love and adore. And please know how grateful we are for you and all that you do to support professional live theatre in Lanesboro. 
Wanna share in even more to be thankful for? Please join us for a performance of
It’s a Wonderful Life: A Live Radio Play opening this Friday, November 23 at 7:30. We guarantee it will give you a new lease on your own life. 
GET TICKETS —> Performance Dates & Times.
Thanks for reading, Happy Thanksgiving and I’ll see you at the theatre—Jeremy. 

Vampire Fangs 2.0

We are thrilled that Ron Evenson of Houston Dental Clinic stepped forward to design and create original sets of fangs for our resident vampires in this season’s Dracula: Prince of Blood. If you were in the audience for the 2002 Commonweal version of Dracula by Steven Dietz, you may recall that Ron created the fangs for those creatures of the night, as well. In this edition of Drama Unfolds, Ron describes the behind the scenes process of creating that most necessary of vampire tools.

Vampire Fang Revival

by Ron Evenson

Kieran Dixon (son of the playwright) and the Vampire Vixens.

You’ve been designing and creating fangs for quite a few years. Tell us about that first incarnation.
— That began when I made fangs for myself for a Halloween party and the boys thought I should make them some also. Over the years, John (my son and dentist) and I have made various appliances for friends who knew we could do that sort of thing. Bugs Bunny teeth were popular!

When you heard Commonweal was doing another production requiring vampires, I understand you volunteered to make custom fangs again. What prompted you to do that?
My wife, Rae, and I love the Commonweal! We have seen every production at least once every year since the beginning back in 1989 at the St Mane Theater, with very few exceptions. We actually had bit parts in one of the very early plays and really got hooked on the Commonweal. We like to do whatever we can to help out and promote the theatre. This is one way we can show our appreciation.

Ron Evenson sizing up Dracula…aka Jeremy van Meter

Where does one even start in the process of creating an original set of fangs?
We start with impressions of the actor’s mouths so we can make models to see how the teeth bite together and also note the shape and size of the teeth and facial features that may influence the shape of the fangs. Then we make wax fangs on original models. When we are satisfied with the wax fangs, we duplicate them in acrylic resin.

I understand that you and John made the fangs for our 2002 production of Dracula…has anything changed about the process of making them 16 years later?
The process is pretty much the same as in 2002.

What is the most challenging part of that process?
The final fitting where we make sure the fangs fit properly and the actors are comfortable wearing them.

You basically donated the time and effort taken to create these pieces. Can you speak to that idea a little further?
— John and I both feel that endeavors in our area such as the Commonweal need the support of local people to be successful. And in turn, these endeavors are vital to the health and growth of our rural communities and to the quality of life we enjoy here. We are grateful that we have the opportunity to help where we can.

It must be great fun to work on. Can you describe that or offer any highlights?
— The highlight for me was being able to again collaborate with my son John just as we did in 2002. We both enjoy having used our skills to produce the fangs for both of these fine productions.

Seeing the amazing vampire fangs created at Houston Dental Clinic up close and personal at the Commonweal is just one of the many great things to do in Lanesboro. What’s another one? Take the short mile and a half drive out of town to visit Bob at Avian Acres Wild Bird Supply. This serene Scandinavian farm among bluffs and hardwood forests offers some of the best birdwatching and selection of supplies in the area.
Dracula: Prince of Blood opens with a gala celebration on Saturday, September 8 at 7:30. Get your tickets for this extra special event.
Thanks for reading and I’ll see you at the theatre — Jeremy.



FYI—Read More Horror Stories

Ruthanna Emrys is an author based in Washington, DC. Ms. Emrys recently had an opinion piece circulate through National Public Radio about how reading horror stories can actually help us to survive and make sense of our own horrifying world. We are all about the power and value of a good horror story right now at the Commonweal as Scott Dixon’s new adaptation of Dracula: Prince of Blood makes its way to the stage later this month. The timing of this article could not be better because, honestly, who doesn’t appreciate a good tale of things that go bump in the night?!

Reading Horror Can Arm Us
Against A Horrifying World

by Ruthanna Emrys

Jeremy van Meter as the Vampire Lord in Dracula - Prince of Blood

Jeremy van Meter as the Vampire Lord in Dracula: Prince of Blood

Tom Lehrer famously said that satire became obsolete when Henry Kissinger won the Nobel Peace Prize. And yet here we are, still struggling to exaggerate the follies of power until power can’t get around us. Horror has much the same resilience. As terrifying as the world becomes, we still turn to imagined terrors to try and make sense of it. To quote another favorite entertainer, Neil Gaiman, “Fairy tales are more than true: Not because they tell us that dragons exist, but because they tell us that dragons can be beaten.” Horror, descended from those tales, tells us about more monsters — and more strategies for beating them.

The banal evils of the world — children shot, neighbors exiled, selves reframed in an instant as inhuman threats — these are horrible, but they aren’t horror. Horror promises that the plot arc will fall after it rises. Horror spins everyday evil to show its fantastical face, literalizing its corroded heart into something more dramatic, something easier to imagine facing down. Horror helps us name the original sins out of which horrible things are born.

Click here to continue reading the full article.

Dracula: Prince of Blood, a world premiere adaptation by Commonweal professional resident ensemble member Scott Dixon, begins previews August 31 and opens September 8. 
Get tickets —> Performance Calendar
Thanks for reading and I’ll see you at the theatre—Jeremy.