Wednesday, September 21, 2016

On Failure

About a year ago-I remember the exact moment-I was lying on my flowery, cozy, bed, and I asked myself,"HAVE I FAILED ENOUGH?" I recounted my professional failures of the past few years, and decided that NO, I hadn't failed enough. I wanted my failure list to be longer, deeper, and wider. Those of you who know me well might be screaming out loud at the screen right now, "NOOOOO!!! Jill! You've failed enough! I think you're ok in that department! You have reached your quota!!!" But I humbly disagree. The more artistic risks that I take, the more my conviction to impact the world grows. The more grants that I apply for, even if I receive zero of those funds, the more I fine-tune my sense of purpose. The more challenging projects that I attempt, the more I can focus my energy, distill and refine my tools as an artist, and potentially reach more people with a vision of inclusivity,open-mindedness, and a love for humanity. After two police killings of unarmed black men this week, a bomb in NYC,and a genocidal war in Syria-just to name a portion of the suffering and insanity of the world today, how could I not put myself out there with my arms open and my ego willing to take the hit? Art has the power to change, to heal, to open doors, to call to action. I'll let you know if I get the grant that I'm working on now, but until then, I'll keep working on expanding my list of failures. And hopefully by this time next year, it will be longer, deeper, and wider.

Tuesday, June 28, 2016

"Stimulating Creativity with Kitten Postcards"

I imagined making some serious headway this summer: Being wildly creative and productive, watching TED talks and becoming 'art business-savvy', spending my days pondering fine art in the various museums of NYC, finally lining my bathroom shelves with swirling 60's pop-art shelving paper, hiking throughout New York state and finally cracking the code of making a serious living as an artist. Also, spending some serious quality time with my man, whom I last spent more than two hours with in 2005, before kid #1 was born. HERE'S WHAT TODAY WAS ACTUALLY LIKE: 1) While listening to "Hamilton," I wrote kitten postcards to the girls, using the kitten pen names of 'Mumples and Rentoto'. 2) While also listening to "Hamilton," I drew a cartoon about a squirrel named Squirrelisimo who was bored and only thought of nuts. I once read about Albert Einstein, who, when stuck on a mathematical/scientific issue, would play the violin and come to find the solution to the problem after delving into Mozart's music. Using the same theory, I am banking on the perfect storm of compulsively listening to the "Hamilton" cast album, hanging out with Mark, inventing new 'nom de plumes' for the twenty-pack of kitten postcards, and drawing about Squirrelisimo's non-adventures with acorns, to bring me to a creative apotheosis. Hey, if it worked for Albert Einstein....!

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Zone of proximal development

So I have lived with my website being VERY FAR from what I'd like it to be. But I couldn't seem to fix it, and I also couldn't spent the $600-$3000 or so that it would take to bring my it closer to a fabulous and dreamy site. I attempted some templates, a friend spent a morning tutoring me on a website-making program, but then when it came time for me to execute the changes, I just couldn't pull it off. The website became relegated to lower and lower on my priority list. And every time I handed someone my business card, I muttered-"The website is really bad. I'm working on it." My technologically savvy husband Mark agreed to work with me this morning to create something new and wonderful. I was 'in it to win it' for the first few hours, until Mark said to me, "Ok. I am going to go back to my work. You can take it from here." "What?!?" I exclaimed, just like my daughter when I ask her to tie her own shoes or make the bed. "I can't!!! I can't do it! Can't you just walk me the whole way?" "'ve got this." I threw a minor tantrum (so weird how this stuff makes me about 5 years old!!!) and sat down at the computer where I botched the work that Mark and I had started in the morning. The background went from beautiful pink to murky mauve, the lettering became navy blue (How did that happen????) and the graphics moved into non-geometric formations. But just like the educational theory of taking kids to where they think that they can't do it, guiding them a bit and then letting them realize their potential (zone of proximal development), after an hour or two of frustration, I started to get the hang of some skills. I could move text! I could insert a picture! With Mark's skilled edit, this website could be almost decent! I did it! I am truly amazed at how masterfully this process evolved. I feel like Mark just 'schooled' me in a profound learning experience. He set up the 'scaffolding' for me, I climbed up, messed up a lot, and then scored! And now I am going to eat a piece of dark chocolate. Check out my new website, folks!! Um, but not quite yet. :)

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Thoughts: Dress Rehearsal day

Today I am holding my first dress rehearsal for puppet choreography that will debut(I LOVE THAT WORD!!!) this Saturday at the Arts Rock Puppet festival. I have invited some friends to be a 'dress rehearsal' audience at my studio and I am planning to go all out-UNITARD AND ALL!!! *I have not sported a unitard since college.* Here's something that hasn't happened in years-I ran out of glue gun sticks last night and finally finished up a ten pound batch of Poly-Fil(Poly-Fil is puppet stuffing. It weighs next to nothing, so a ten pound box has lasted me at least 3 years.) I have been repairing puppets for weeks, rebuilding ones that have gotten ratty from dragging them across stages and having kids play with them-I love when the kids get to hold my puppets after the show and see that they are made from everyday materials. I have been incorporating dance into my puppet shows for a while now, but this is really the first time that I am full-out dancing for 8 minutes with them in a choreographed number. I am extremely excited, deep-in-my chest focused, and planning to enjoy every moment up there on the stage of the Nyack Center!

Sunday, December 8, 2013

My Chanukkah present

For those who have gazed out of their car windows and noticed a woman slowly and unsteadily wandering around town in a long fluffy coat, that's me. I have been struggling with vertigo the past few weeks. My whole working life is physical; I am flummoxed, to put it mildly. How am I supposed to dance and perform puppet shows and be funny and lively, or wear a frog costume, or dance, when I am gripping the walls as I walk and attempting to not fall and hit my head!? I have cancelled a lot over the past few weeks, which is a DOOZY when you're a freelancer and then on top of the vertigo, I got nailed with a wicked virus on Monday night! By Tuesday I had lost my voice and was advised by my doctor to be completely silent for 24 hours and that maybe I would be able to perform my annual Chanukkah puppet show on Thursday at the Warner library. So, starting on Wednesday, I set out to revamp the puppet show to make it less physical and to not require my voice. I had written the show to be heavily musical- lots of ukulele singing and dancing and storytelling. I am used to leading the show with my voice-narration, leading the songs, engaging the adults and kids in the activities...OY VEY!! So I wrote and wrote and modified the show, but something was still missing. I listened to Chanukkah music all day Wednesday and was extremely silent and listened for inspiration. By Thursday morning, I admittedly was a little nervous-I still hadn't nailed the show into a new format. The phone rang- it was the nurse from Ruby's school. Would I come over and give her some medicine? She was having an allergic reaction to something and her nose was running. I grabbed the Children's Benadryl and my earphones and headed out into the gray and rainy day, walking slowly and unsteadily. I played my favorite Chanukkah song this year, “Miracle” by the Maccabeats over and over on my Ipod. I must have listened to it 5 times and on the corner as I turned to walk up to school, IT HIT ME. I HAD NOTHING TO LOSE. GO FOR IT. In what felt like a Chanukkah miracle of artistic inspiration, I came up with the silliest opening scene for the show. I figured that either that it would flop hugely, or that I would have the audience with me for the rest of the show. I felt it in my chest. It was ridiculous and out there and crazy and I had never done anything like it before. It was show time, Thursday afternoon. Lily read the opening posterboard to the audience for me- “ Ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls, cats and kittens- I have lost my voice. I have a great show for you and with your cooperation, we're going to have a great show celebrating Chanukkah.” She had the crowd count to twenty while I dashed out the door and into the librarian's desk to change into a dancing zebra puppet costume with a gold glittery potato latke hat. She clicked 'Miracle' on the stereo and I goofily and awkwardly disco danced into the room with the zebra puppet attached to my wrists, neck, knees and ankles to this song about Chanukkah miracles. The crowd giggled and a few kids got up to dance with me. There happened to be a group of teenagers in the room (not my usual puppet show demographic) and their surprised faces seemed to say “ Wow. That woman is dancing like a complete fool with a zebra puppet strapped to her body. There might be something sort of cool about that.” I danced the whole song with the Chanukkah miracle puppet and then continued to do a mostly silent movie, vaudeville type of puppet show. The crowd was gracious and attentive and kind and I thought that the show was even better than it would have been if I had my usual faculties! What a beautiful Chanukkah present, as the sun set outside of the children's room at the library and we celebrated the last night of Chanukkah.

Saturday, November 30, 2013

"FUNK-IFY YOUR MOVES" dance party Dec. 6 7:30 pm Curious on Hudson $20

"Jill is so comfortable in her own skin, if even a fraction of it rubs off on you, you'll be jumping up to get on the dance floor!" Indira My 43rd birthday is this Friday and what better way to celebrate than to boogie with friends?!? "Jill's unique authenticity and commitment to movement gives you all the permission you'll need to ignore your inhibitions and just let loose!" Naomi I am running an introductory workshop to recreational dancing. (Meaning: the kind of dancing that you would do at a party!)I have broken down some basic dance floor moves into easy, fun and FUNKY ways that YOU can step out onto the dance floor with confidence! No dance experience necessary! "If I know that Jill is at a party I'm sure I want to be there, too. Her dancing is so much fun to watch, carefree and contagious that you're sure to have a good time. Jill is a great dancer, artist as well as a wonderful friend!" Bettina Dec. 6 7:30 pm Curious on Hudson 145 Palisade St #412b, Dobbs Ferry, NY 10522 $20 "Jill is an awesome dancer, dance teacher and person! She has motivated thousands of people to join her in "feeling the beat" as a professional dancer (in a 6 foot frog costume!) during my concerts. And seeing her dance at parties in her full Wonder Woman regalia is inspiring. I even got out on the dance floor for that one! HER DEDICATION TO MOVING FUNKILY IS A SIGHT TO BEHOLD." Jeffrey Friedberg, leader of The Bossy Frog Band

Thursday, November 7, 2013


I am renting a small dance studio in Tarrytown to practice my dance choreography and rehearse with my puppets. I am so often filled with dread the morning before entering the studio: It's just me in there! It's so hard to face myself, alone with the mirrors and the clock and the hard wood floors, with what feels like too little physical energy, or a lack of creative direction, or the solitude of the endeavor. But I am not really alone in there, if I am listening. I am filled with stories and breath and sounds and freedom. All of this accompanies me when I do face myself and allow my body to move freely, to find whatever is out there, within myself. And this is why I am an artist. Connecting with this force fills me with so much gratitude, hope, faith, and peacefulness. Thank you everybody who believes in me, and in the power of art to heal.