Tim Robbins and The Actors Gang..."Break The Whip"

I went to The Actors Gang in Culver City last weekend to see a preview of Tim Robbins new play... ”BREAK THE WHIP.”

The show was over sold and the energy in the lobby was zizzing. Some tech issues held us all in the lobby until 5 minutes before curtain and we were like children in line at Disneyland. I love the press of human flesh, like small children in line for ice cream…we waited and then excitedly entered. The actors were milling around and the pre-show prep was …well…the “pre-show.”

I felt something special…I felt like I was home. I have been in the theatre for most of my life and I belong to that geeky group of misfits that resides hopefully within the walls of a playhouse. The buildings themselves hold me as their own, a disciple. The Actors Gang’s space…holds itself like a small country church filled with natural devotees. They are as at ease in their space as children are in a schoolyard. This contentment radiates and invites you in. The fourth wall is not apparent. You are with them…in their house…for a nice visit. So sit back and enjoy the ride.

“Break The Whip” revealed portals long “plugged” in my psyche. The show was so deep and so penetrating I did not sleep that night. I came away with a sense of deep peace... and utter confusion. I felt guilty. I felt…sad…angry…lonely…so much churned emotion …bubbled to the surface. Like my nerves were exposed to water and light and air…for the first time. I was annoyed. The show was so beautiful and loving and generous. I felt shame and deep sadness over some choices…and about the long unforgiven. I grieved for the loss of time and energy I had given to anger.

To feel is the most precious gift we have as humans. To know our appetites in love, art, music and food is where we live. We have choice…. deliciously splendid and sometimes gut wrenching choice. It is the human condition to live for these choices...these desires. It is the human condition to desire and want to satisfy appetites. Desire is such a tricky thing. It leads us to grace and to destruction. And we have to have it to keep going in times of despair.

It is why people sit… in mosques, monasteries,temples and theatres. And why people wait in diners and bars…we are all waiting...for some thing to shake us or wake us. And when something we relish lands on our plate…we consume it. Our appetites sometimes consume us. We see some “thing”... smell some thing, taste something and then… WE MUST HAVE IT…. again and again. The addiction is based on what we felt, what we experienced the first time we took part…the first taste…and we want to repeat the experience….but we never can.

We get lost. The balance of these appetites is a lifetime pursuit. My (almost) 14-year-old son has the ability to discipline his appetites in a way that I envy. I do not have his gift...I want what I want...and I want it now. That is why I must sit. I sit to find peace…to find balance…to find truth. I sit to find the woman who is content and not greedy. I sit to find the woman who loves her self…and who in turn…shares that love…and can BE loved. I sit for the woman who knows how to forgive and surrender. I sit for the woman who knows hope to be an active verb. I sit in hope.

I have been in an insane battle with my son father about child support for the last year. He is an "almost famous” guy. We had an affair on location and then...I had a baby. A baby he begged me not to have. A baby that changed all of our lives. I have raised that baby alone. That baby is now almost 14.

My son’s father has met his son twice. Once 4 years ago and then two weeks ago. I finally got up enough courage this year to ask for a raise and college fund. The response staggered me. Basically what he said was “no” and "I have done enough.” And then...(gulp)... “why don’t you do more?”

My head burst as I read these words…”why don’t I do more?” I am raising the boy single handedly…what exactly would that “more” be?

Yesterday I woke up feeling soul sick. I laid down on the cold tile floor of my bathroom. I pressed my cheek tightly against the tile and felt relief in the cold hardness of it. I have done this since I was a child…lying on cold hard surfaces…. my cheek pressed tightly to the smooth coldness…it soothes me.

I ice skate...and when I fall...I linger there too. The ice cold fog rolling out of my mouth and freezing my face...some days I fall on purpose so I can feel the velvet smooth and stone cold pillow of the ice.

I later met with some "friends"…hoping to find comfort or compassion perhaps? Some way to ease this pain…this lonely ass pain…. this sickness in my belly…the ache in my head. In my confusion and anger, I had written an email to the boy’s father that left me feeling bad…just plain bad….I had not slept. I was in need of some help…guidance…peace. And then I heard a man say the words...

"Honesty without compassion is brutality"

And head...hit the floor….F!@%^&*CK!

In my mindless pursuit for a better life for my son I was losing my self. Just then I glanced at my iphone and saw an email from a friend whom I love and trust deeply…it read:

..."This stuff makes men crazy...somehow you must be compassionate...are you going to make your sons life better by making yourself sick or weak...or drunk"


Like the man said..."there is more than one way to skin a cat" and to that end there is more than one way to become drunk. Drunk with love...drunk with passion...drunk with power... and drunk with...righteousness.

A sense that I was absolutely "right"… at all cost.

"Break The Whip" had planted a seed in my consciousness and the seed sprouted and then burned. It simply said…”forgive…you have to forgive…and then dear lady you have to let go…”

From my deep sadness, sprang an anger... and from my deep anger sprang....deep DEEP resentment. And resentment my friends is the root of all of my evils. Disappointment distills....anger...sadness...jealousy....they all distill. And nothing good can come from the black primordial ooze of a bad conscience.

To be frank...I could not live with what I was thinking. My heart ached. My soul was sick. And why for? Because... I wanted something so much that I forgot who “I” was. Maybe I am giving up on the fight...but trust wasn't a good or fair fight. When you are in discussion with someone that does not speak your language or understand your meaning, then "discussion" is is a mute point.

This man will never see me. Never see who I am. I am a stone in his shoe and that is all. I am not going to change him. But... (BIG) BUT... I can change me.

SO...I am taking the sage wisdom of this brave new play to task... I a sense (and not to be witty)..."breaking the whip" that I have held over me.

This idea will not speak to all of you. But it will speak to those of you who have felt the self-esteem of a short curb. It will speak to those of you who have punished yourself for things that cannot be changed and may never be righted. It will speak to the ones like me, who, with all good intentions…have made bad choices. It will speak to those of us who have always...always..ALWAYS counted themselves as whatever race.

John Lennon once wrote..."woman is the n___r of the world"...that phrase stuck to my bones like peanut butter on the roof of my mouth when I first heard it as a teenage girl. I do not like the word. I do not like the way it feels. "I am less"... was my internal mantra. “I am not worthy” “I am ashamed… and (painfully)... I do not even know why.”

But today...some still small voice ...YELLED at me and said... "You are better than this" "You are his Mother and you have done a good job...and the Universe knows it." “Look at what the Universe has given you…you have the light within you.” “Your success lies in you…. because you are a part of…. everything.”

"Break The Whip" had such a profound effect on me...because...I was willing. Willing to see and say... "I have been brutal" ...when I thought I was being righteous. "I have been ambitious" ... when I thought I was being brave. "I have been selfish" ...when I thought I was serving others. "I have been wrong" …and I seek to be forgiven.

I watched the Deepa Mehta film “Water” this morning. And it too caused me to reflect on all that I have.

I am no slave, no prisoner….I am free.

For as weird and geeky as I am… for all of my flaws… I know I am loved. And because I know I am loved, I feel generous.

Freedom.... My new mantra I think…nice word…trips well off the tongue…it falls glimmeringly…like a scoop of ice cream into a dish. It is the delight of a sad heart…to remember..I am free.

So I am going to drop this rock. Make amends….and soon feel better… live better….be…better.

And I will go ice skate on Wednesday...and maybe find "a river I can skate away on"....or at least press my cheek against.

Go to see "Break The Whip!" See live theatre! A city is only as great as it's culture! Slange!

The Actors Gange Website:

****Academy Award-winner and Actor's Gang Artistic Director Tim Robbins' new drama Break the Whip tells the story of the colony of Jamestown, 1607, which suffered yet endured over a decade before the Pilgrims landed at Plymouth Rock. This show is written and directed by Tim Robbins with music by his brother David Robbins,the cast includes his sister Adele Robbins.

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