Archive for the ‘Theatre’ Category

Olfactory Musings: A Scents Memory Piece

June 25th, 2015

One year ago today, I posted a question to my Facebook page…


Many of my friends generously posted their responses. Memorable scents accompanied by touching, lovely, sad, angry, and beautiful stories. I pieced together a story of my own experiences crafted from their words. I tried to include every single one to create this bit of nose prose. I know, I missed Mossman Action Figure, cabin, and eucalyptus! Here is a visual representation of the scents I received. The large bulbs are the ones mentioned repeatedly.


This whole thing became a bit more precious than I usually like to go but, such is the way with memories and nostalgia. And, like with most art exercises, there is always room for improvement… particularly in my pronunciations of Malacca and waft … but I’d love for you to take a listen! Light a favorite candle or hold something fragrant under your nose,

What I hope to happen, even more than you hearing my story, is for us to share a reflective olfactory moment.

Play it in the background while you are working, don’t even pay attention, and maybe a word will jump out. Perhaps you will smell it, or at least think of a time you had with a Mossman Action Figure (boom, got it) or mulch.

In doing research for some other art and olfaction ideas, I ran across this olfactory artist, Brian Goeltzenleuchter! He is part of a similar (unrelated) project here: Olfactory Memoirs. I recently got to meet up with Brian in San Diego and it was a goshdamned treat. Can’t wait to see/smell more of his work.

If you’re interested in the words, here is V1 of the Script. This first iteration of the performance was for a really cool comedy festival in Chicago, A Jangleheart Circus, and for the show “One Item” in particular.


At the beginning of piece, pass out jars of lavender, boxes of crayons, an old book, Old Spice deodorant, Market Spice tea, rubber bands, etc. Audience is asked to sniff the jars throughout the show.


I think of life’s timeline in places because it’s easier to remember landmarks than dates. Brains never remember it all quite right. Except for smell. Scent is immediate, hardly anything to decipher. Scent is shit, it’s puppy paws, it’s mom and fresh tortillas. Like pinto beans in a pressure cooker, memories cook fast. The olfactory system swirls with the limbic system, clinging to the amygdala. Making close to indelible connections with memory. Blasts of old cologne (Malibu Musk, Cool Water, Electric Youth) like hippocampal stains, takes us there. Takes me back. A place I can barely remember, yet all of a sudden I am there.

So for a moment, lets concentrate on that sense that transcends space and time and places you in memory, not just reverie but exactly. I will speak to you in smells. I didn’t create an odorama or craft you each a perfume, but I did take words from my friends and a few olfactory aids. From a casual survey on Facebook, “hey friends, question for you. what is a smell/scent (good or bad) that you have a specific memory or memories linked to”?  I took my friends words and put them into a story about where I’ve called home. A nose prose using these suggested scents to build a story that includes yours. I hope it titillates your nosebuds, conjures memories and places you someplace else for even a second.

Out of an old suitcase, I pull out a handmade sign that reads “MANKATO, MN” and prop it against the open lid.

MANKATO, MN: I trampled through lilies of the valley to build fleeting lilac forts with cabbage patch dolls. Wet dog and rain wet grass, set on a palette of soybean factory. I’m from southern MN. With winters so cold the air smells like ozone. But Summertime’s new asphalt and honeysuckle thunderstorms were hot. Air conditioners and mowers drone through the humidity. Rain on hot gravel is different than rain on hot tar or grass. Summer camp’s emotional fireworks while listening to fresh water lap over lake algae. Loves Skin so soft to keep away the bugs. Summer days are Coppertone, coconut sunscreen and fried doughnuts. A boat motor with diesel gas for sailing in WI.

There was making hay bale furniture with my cousin above cow manure after painting mildew portraits on a concrete wall in Grandma’s basement. Ponds cold cream kept her from cracking. That house is a place that no longer exists because we had to sell the farm. Pig shit. I will never sneak through what felt like the inside of a giant old piano again, to discover dead cats and renovated school buses. Because we all need bacon! Its delicious.  Here’s an oxy moron. Outhouse air freshener. Plenty of bugspray. I never knew the smell of crop dusting pesticides but I did know grandpa’s pipe tobacco.

The first blast of a furnace. Heated up dust so cozy it cheers for the Vikings with dad next to the fireplace. He was never an old spice guy, he uses some other shaving cream in a mug with a brush. Its now fall, fresh cut grass and musky sweet cornfields have given way to dorm rooms and cafeteria food the concession stand is selling popcorn, wood is burning, and there is a brand new box of crayons. How confident do you feel? Pencil lead or pen ink? Definitely Dr Pepper Lip Smackers. As we get up for our chocolate milk, pencil shavings drop like sawdust on the fresh floorwax.

Lets get to the preteen, pre-deodorant times. Cotton shirts washed in tide sparking a clean libido. A dash of Polo, Juba Oil from the body shop… some Jergens. I hear that’s a thing. Incense to cover cigarette smoke. Sniffing out identities in closets and the chapel of Bethlehem Lutheran Church. So many White Shoulders. I took a French Class the year John died from the meningitis outbreak. I remembered watching him skate, the ice rinks and hockey gear.

Lets move on.

Out of an old suitcase, I pull out a handmade sign that reads “NEW YORK FUCKING CITY” and prop it against the open lid.

NEW YORK CITY: The subway body odor of 9 million strangers. Urine. White Castle. Hot trash like a red rubber dodgeball. The beginnings of my stale bar experiences spilling onto the sidewalks. Fresh bread from the Italian bakery, would become toasts at the liquor store. 5am stumbling under bridges. A man from Spain by way of Nantucket, condoms because I am afraid of disposable diapers. It was a circus composed of the sweaty unwashed suits from a gypsy punk marching band and it was awesome. I ate delicious lotus flower cakes while barking, “do you like comedy?”  There is one stench that I hope to never smell again, the burnt electrics of the weeks following Sept 11th. The haze of fear and unheard protests to a war in Iraq over burnt ass oil. A ceiling of drywall painted blue to remind me of Peru.

Out of an old suitcase, I pull out a handmade sign that reads “SEATTLE” and prop it against the open lid.

SEATTLE: A decade of urban stimulation and I needed nature. So I moved to Seattle. Intoxicating rosemary landscapes. The coffee. The breeze was ocean scented and laced with evergreen. I worked at the Pike Place Market lavender shop, The fish guys tossed salmon past leather belts to mingle with piroshkys, peppermint essential oil, creosote and Lazlo’s booze. With a moldy beard dripping with Vino Verite. He pulled cards from his jacket from a girlfriend in the middle of the country and told me how he ran here from Hungary. Market Spice tea shared with Phan who made me origami Snowflakes, took me to Starbucks on my birthday. We’d meet for buffet lunches and he told me about Vietnam.

Moving on.

Out of an old suitcase, I pull out a handmade sign that reads “CHICAGO” and prop it against the open lid.

CHICAGO: We drank campfire in a glass, Laphroiag in the mountains of North Carolina and I was hooked. Seemed too luxurious but hopeful and rich like mulch.  So I came to Chicago where I lived with husband future. He is nostalgic like a Panini Sticker with a heart as big, beautiful and complicated as Wyoming. His mother hates Asiago cheese. There is magic incorporated into hospital visits. And conversely, medical tape in theatre productions. But for all the luck and success for some reason I can’t shake the mothballs where I thought my life would be. I let familiar smells and distant identities form a circle. The mist of early morning Midwestern summer felt heavy defeated, back home in a tail between legs sort of way. Uncle Fun & Blommers Chocolate a welcome waft on my way to the burn of a backstage power saw but I haven’t really seen Idaho, Horthorpe Hall or Malacca. I didn’t even get to Ocean City Maryland! I let the economy throw me. A Gorse flower blossom surrounded by photosynthetic thorns, I don’t want to be that dependent on my thorns. I’m not done for god sakes, I just got scared of being old, of making a commitment. The inland water spray of lakeshore drive is not the enemy. But a lake has very different conversations than an ocean.

Out of an old suitcase, I pull out a handmade sign that reads “LOS ANGELES” and prop it against the open lid.

So together we’ll head west again, to desert sage and yellow jasmine. To meet back up with old NYC and their new super elastic bubble plastic lives. Crystal Ball tell me about whale watching, and this year’s Christmas Calamari, reminiscing about the Jersey Shore and sharing a violet candy. Maybe I’ll go vegan, cucumber melon, or live in an apartment building with a boxwood topiary. I’ll soak in chlorine, get a real tan and a real fake Christmas tree.

Smell ya later.


Kyle Abraham Dance at MCA

March 5th, 2014

Photo: Steven Schreiber

About a week ago I was able to catch Kyle Abraham’s, The Radio Show at the MCA stage. I had heard about him through another artist that I adore and admire, Amy O’Neal. The reason I’m writing about it on PopNeurology is because well, here it is best described from his website:

Kyle Abraham delves into identity and personal history in The Radio Show. Creating an abstract narrative around the loss of communication, he investigates the effects of the abrupt discontinuation of a radio station on a community and the lingering effects of Alzheimer’s and aphasia on a family. Abraham mixes recordings of classic soul and hip-hop with contemporary classical compositions to create an eclectic score that evokes fond memories and a passion for what is lost.

There are perfectly placed moments in this tight, intense, fluid and controlled show highlighting the disintegration of communication spoken and physical. The character choice/movement theme that he chooses to represent his aphasic family member is not emotionally manipulative, but meaningful.  It feels like the character is telling the story not just being seen. And thus hits harder and in other places than just the heart and tear ducts. For myself, I hope in future works to remember how much this light handed approach intensified a point. The show offered so much to see and think about with alternate narratives yet it all came together so beautifully. So satisfying. It was one of those moments when you are lost in and completely engaged with a piece of art.

His company’s website:

Additionally, if you live in or around NYC there is a performance of The Radio Show coming up in March,

Video of that show I did “murder, hope”

May 2nd, 2012

I applied for an artsy thing today because I need a space, some money, and a kick in the butt to do a new brain show. I had to send in a work sample for the application so I took some bits from my show “murder, hope”. That’s the first show I did that was about about brain disorders, neuroplasticity, Batman, and murder ballads. This is the show that I toured on the Canadian Fringe circuit but this clip is from my run at the great, Annex Theatre in Seattle. I thought I’d post it here as well since, y’know I mention it from time to time. These are just a few selections from the show, and its mostly movement stuff (none of the murder ballads, sorry) please to enjoy!

Quick bit about “murder, hope” so you don’t have to go back searching, from my friends (and awesome producer) at

Written and performed by Becky Poole and directed by Carrie Morris, “murder, hope” is the story of one family’s experience with the unimaginably rare and heartbreaking brain disorder, Landau-Kleffner Syndrome. It is a disorienting journey fueled by the creator’s obsessions with superhero archetypes, the burgeoning frontier of Neuroplasticity research, and soul-chilling Appalachian murder ballads. It is a charged and curious show that seeks to make sense of the senseless.

In 2006 Becky Poole’s nephew, Devin, was diagnosed with Landau Kleffner Syndrome, a highly rare childhood neurological disorder characterized by an unusual combination of epilepsy and aphasia. This condition, which robs children of their ability to use and understand language, has been diagnosed in fewer than 10 individuals per year since it was first discovered in 1957. Becky’s urge to make sense of this fascinating and mysterious turn of fate led her to seek comfort and explanation from many sources, and she defended herself against this tragedy by embracing and dissecting Batman mythology, studying contemporary and groundbreaking research in new fields of neurology, and writing eerie and vengeful folk songs to isolate and neutralize her pain. The products of these fascinations have been synthesized in ‘murder, hope’, a one-woman multi-genre performance piece in which the perplexing challenges of balance and communication are made real for audience and performer alike.

Red Kite Project: Theatre made for kids with Autism

April 5th, 2012

This February I had the absolute pleasure and delight to work with The Red Kite Project. It is a show/experience and sometimes camp through the Chicago Children’s Theater . The purpose is to create theatre that is created specifically for children with Autism. You can see their mission eloquently put, as well as watch a movie about Red Kite on their site here…

The facebook page is often updated with news, events, etc.!/pages/The-Red-Kite-Project/120621808004073

The month that we worked to put up the most current production of Red Kite By the Sea, went by so fast and was in some ways a blur. So many magical moments, from the actual technique/art of the show (beautiful music and projections) as well as of course, from heart and mind connections. Smiles, laughter, and no thank yous, group dance parties, learning boundaries, and impromptu sing-alongs. Its hard to not sound cheesy about it, but as a performer on stage to hold an audience members hand, interact with/explore a prop together,  be held accountable for knowing when something is too loud or too scary and have to change in the moment is beautiful and rare. Its a real live event! And that is why I want to do any theatre, for emotional communication, a present connection. This specific audience demands it. This specific show was a sensual (as in the 5 senses), emotional landscape (to borrow a term from bjork) with an attention to schedule, storytelling and detail that I hope to remember for future writing and theatre creations. Also, bubbles are rad. Period.

I can’t wait to get back to Red Kite after a bit of time off (we’ve got a gig at the end of this month!) Speaking of that, if you know of anyone who would like to have Red Kite come to wherever they are, please contact Red Kite for more information … and I’m not just saying that because that would get me work. Although that’s part of it! This is a lovely, gentle, wondrous, dreamy creation and I am so glad to be involved with the team.

learning the sweet tunes! these were some tight harmonies y'all. i even learned some uke. don't worry i'm not gonna go all ukelele bangy and post a youtube vid of the 3 chords i learned.