Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Joe Sullivan. A Tribute.

I will start with one of his favorite words:
which means "Full of sadness or sorrow, especially in an exaggerated or insincere way."
He used this word in probably my very first class with him. He did not offer the definition of it. That wasn't his point in uttering it. He shared this word for the pure joy of saying it. Of writing it.
Joe Sullivan made it his job at West High School in my home town of Manchester, NH to show us the power and beauty of words.
He was my creative writing teacher in my senior year. Until his class, it had never occurred to me that I may have something to say. Most of us go our entire lives and never write for the sheer joy of the creative process.
Joe did not harangue you about rules of composition. He taught you to write simply, effectively. But above all, he wanted you to tell your story. When he read the student's work aloud at the front of the class, he did so with supreme relish. In a sense, he viewed your work as a gift to him and he made sure to appreciate it and share it with everyone. That was a very powerful message to give to a student like me.
The things I learned under his guidance I have used every single day of my life. His lessons went beyond the written word.

  • Creativity. Tell your story, however you may. No matter the form, get it out into the universe.
  • Generosity of spirit. Recognize the gift that is a story. Make sure to share it with others.
  • Bravery. It takes guts to share yourself in written word. Have courage, and in so doing, encourage others.

He loved the word lugubrious, but I don't believe it fit the man. There was nothing exaggerated or insincere in the feelings he inspired in others. Sorrowful or sad? I don't know that the man was capable of frowning. His lexicon would be more accurately derived from his favorite word's antonyms:
Cheerful. Heartwarming. Lighthearted. Joyful. Encouraging.
This is my tribute, pale as it is, to an artist, educator and friend. You have left this world a better place than you found it. You enriched the lives of those who had the honor to know you. And you have empowered an entire generation with the courage to express themselves.
From my family to yours. Thanks, Joe.

Joseph C. Sullivan
Feb 14, 1944-Sept 23, 2013

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Alive and Well

It has been an embarrassingly long time since I have thrown some words out here. Isn't it funny how life manages to get in the way of ...life?
When I haven't been putting hours into a short term art assignment or serving as membership chair for my local elementary school's PTA, I've been stretching my actor's legs into a shiny new discipline: the art of Voice Acting.
You never know how little you know till you know it.
In my first class I discovered:

  • How fast one talks when nervous
  • Accents sound worse on tape than in your head
  • Voice Acting has very little to do with funny voices
  • Voice Acting is actually acting
A good voice acting session uses dang near every acting muscle you have at your disposal. It had been a long time since I'd been in a classroom environment. It was nice to flex those limbs once more.
It was the resultant feeling of release that brought me to the topic at hand.
Like many actors, it can be a long time between chances to perform for me. The classroom becomes something of a gymnasium. It serves to bring back that old muscle memory. When I haven't worked out in a while, I begin to question my abilities. This can lead to wavering confidence, which ultimately leads to not putting myself out there for the world to see.
That is equal to death for those of us who have made this our lives.
So when I entered the sound booth in front of ten other classmates to work with the instructor on a piece of copy, I was more than a little nervous. By the end of the evening, I was practically singing. It was like a steak dinner after a week-long fast! I was almost overwhelmed by emotion. Ones that had clearly been bottled, bagged and tagged for far too long found their way to the surface.
The results of my time in the booth were not what was important. I probably stunk up the joint.  What was critical to me was that my joy of discovery was still alive and well. I learned new things about myself. New ways to approach this thing I love to do.
That is time and money well spent.