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Join two of Philadelphia’s favorite daughters, Jean Brooks and Debra Leigh Scott, for their new show, “Love Sucks. Let’s Sing!”, a cabaret song cycle about the beautiful, the poignant, the funny and the just plain awful aspects of love.

Jean Brooks (www.jeanbrooks.net), is a multi-faceted artist whose many talents have been seen in theatre, film, and television. “My favorite theater role was Vivian Bearing in “Wit”,” Jean says. “The complexity of the character and the honesty of the play made it a great challenge. I’d happily shave my head again if given an opportunity to reprise the role.” Her preferred acting medium, however, is film, where her favorite role was playing a drug dealer named Chico Slime! She had a small role as a ghost in “Sixth Sense”, with one of Philadelphia’s most famous filmmakers, M. Night Shyamalan. This was her first major motion picture and the experience helped her finally understand why movies cost so many millions to produce.

Jean started singing at the age of three when her mother stood her on a piano bench so the people could see her. So singing in a cabaret is rather a natural progression! She has performed as a cabaret artist over the years on a variety of stages, and considers the “here and now” to be the best. “I think it takes maturity and experience to sing cabaret. These songs have to have been lived. They can’t be just sung.”

In addition to her work in the arts, Jean has designed a program called Retire To Life®, aimed at helping Boomers rediscover lost passions in order to create vibrant and exciting lives in retirement. “I developed this workshop as the result of a conversation I had with a former college roommate who told me she was afraid to retire because she didn’t know what she was going to do with her time! I always knew I would go back into the arts fulltime, and wanted to be able to help others find an equally exciting path.”

Debra Leigh Scott (www.debraleighscott.com), is a writer, playwright, educator and documentary filmmaker who has recently returned to singing after years of art-making off-stage. Her short story collection, Other Likely Stories, was published by Sowilo Press in 2010. She has a few collections of short stories in progress as well as several novels in the works, including her first YA novel about her own Mayflower ancestor, Elizabeth Tilley. Her plays have been performed at The New Light Festival, the Shubin AprilFest, and the Philadelphia Fringe Festival. Her documentary, ‘Junct: The Trashing of Higher Ed. In America, is in post-production. Clips can be viewed at 2255films.com, and portions will be screened at this year’s Left Forum, on Saturday, May 21, at the John Jay College in NYC. “I’ve never stopped singing – but for years it’s been at home, behind closed doors. I have returned to singing publicly only in the last few years,” Debra Leigh said. “since performance and travel are difficult when raising a family.” Her family grown, she’s been able to turn her attention back to theatre, and to her own performance work. Before her marriage and family, she toured with Eastern Jam, a jazz/rock fusion band, as their lead singer. “Even after I had the freedom to do it again, I was a little fearful – it had been so long! It took a little bit of time, and the encouragement of good friends, for me to get back to a microphone. I had become used to being behind the scenes – to writing and directing.”

Jean and Debra Leigh met years ago at a cabaret workshop, with long-time Philadelphia and New York cabaret professional, Doug Anderson. They have worked together since on a variety of theatrical projects, including several of Debra’s own plays, in which Jean had leading roles.

“As we got to know each other better and better, we were stunned at the many ways our lives paralleled each other. Jean was, literally, a farmer’s daughter from Nebraska, and I was the typical child of the suburban East Coast. But our experiences, especially in marriage and love were shockingly similar.” So, they started brainstorming, and collecting some of their favorite music, to create a story cycle which eventually became their two-woman show. “The title was the easiest part,” Debra Leigh said.

“Love Sucks. Let’s Sing,” is a wry look at the many experiences of romance and love, exploring the beautiful, the poignant, the funny, and the just plain awful aspects of it all.

“I love the theme of the show,” Jean said, “because I feel that it is a familiar story to so many people; they can relate to the ups and downs of relationships. At the same time, it’s very personal to us; it gives folks a look into our souls.”

Jean and Debra Leigh plan to open the show with a few performances in their hometown of Philadelphia, and then to begin traveling the many cabaret festivals around the U.S. The venue for their first two shows is L’Etage Cabaret, a very popular nightclub spot in the Queen Village area of Center City Philadelphia, which has become something of a hot spot for cabaret in the last few years. After that, the plan is to launch the show by touring the various cabaret festivals through the U.S.

Jean said, “My hope for the show is that is reaches a wide audience, and that people will realize that regardless of their individual stories, we all have pretty much traveled the same rocky road of love.”

Dates and Times for the Show: Friday, June 10, 2016 and Friday, July 22, 2016. Both shows begin at 7:30 p.m. Doors open at 7:00.
L’Etage Cabaret is located at 624 S. 6th Street, Philadelphia, PA 19147
Tickets for both Philadelphia performances can be purchased at Brown Paper Tickets, at the link: LoveSucksLetsSing.brownpapertickets.com

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“What is an artist? A provincial who finds himself somewhere between a physical reality and a metaphysical one…. It’s this in-between that I’m calling a province, this frontier country between the tangible world and the intangible one—which is really the realm of the artist.” — Federico Fellini

Questions about creativity, art, the creative process, the artistic life — however you phrase it, the curiosity is based on one thing: the fact that those who do not experience their own creativity are incapable of understanding those who dwell within theirs.

Fellini is right that the artist lives in a liminal world, between dream and manifestation. But so do we all.  The biggest difference is that the artist recognizes that world of liminality; others aren’t aware of the fact that a part of them lives in that place of dreams all the time.

The best way for anyone to understand creativity is for them to be introduced to their own creative energies.

We live in a world that has systematically devalued and destroyed opportunities to experience our creativity.  Standardized testing, rote teaching, drilling and killing — that is too often how our children are “taught”, and with that kind of numbing out, adults rarely have ever felt their own creative energy.  And to live a life without ever having felt your own creative energy surging through your mind and body — well, that’s not living at all.

Pedagogical theorists are, finally, realizing how under-developed our students are when they are denied time to explore creativity.  But after reading mountains of educational theory on “teaching creativity”, I’ve come to the conclusion that none of them know what they are talking about.  Unless you are an artist, you cannot introduce someone to art.  I saw this in the years when I was a residency artist in the state arts council programs.  I remember one day, walking down the hall of a public school in New Jersey, overhearing a kindergarten teacher giving instruction to the children:

“We’ll be drawing pictures of apples today.  And what colors are apples?  They are red, green, yellow.  There are NO purple apples.  No blue apples.  So, let’s be sure that we use the right colors, everybody!”

I wanted to scream.  I wanted to rush into the room and push her out of the way, and tell the children, “YES there are purple apples!  There are blue apples!  There are polka dot and striped apples!  And where are they?  In your imagination!  So draw whatever kind of apples you can imagine!”

It is impossible for a non-artist to teach creativity.  There, I’ve said it.

So what we need is an avalanche of artists, a flood of artists, entering all levels of the population — interacting with the youngest children and the oldest seniors — inviting them to see their own purple apples, to imagine their flavor, to smell their perfume.

Our society needs its artists now more than ever.  They are the shamans who will lead the way into that liminal province, that is the place where all is possible, pre-manifest and yet real.

So how does one begin to experience their own creativity?  Here’s how:

Go find the artists.   Turn off the TV, the computer and the smart phone.  Surround yourself with live art, if only a little bit, each and every day.  Go to an art museum, listen to all kinds of music (not just the kind you are most used to!), learn about the theatres in your area, and buy tickets — or better yet, go to their preview nights, when audience is often invited to view for free.  Watch live dance performance. Go to poetry and literary readings. Attend open mics in your neighborhood.  Read books – all kinds, but especially literary works and poetry.

Carry a notebook in which you can sketch and write.  Consider taking music or singing lessons.  Try acting.  Draw.  Take a pottery class.  Dance — even if it is only in your living room when nobody is watching.   Invest in some inexpensive art supplies – a sketchbook, some pencils, maybe some water color.  Buy a cheap camera and start taking pictures.  Buy a box or two of those magnetic word poetry kits and play with word combinations on your refrigerator each morning, as you wait for your tea or coffee to be finished.

Buy yourself a copy of THE ARTIST’S WAY by Julia Cameron and read it.  Do the exercises.  Follow her guidance.

Hang out with artists.  Get to know some of the people in your community who are involved in the arts, and spend time with them.  Get involved with what they do.  Your life will begin to change.  It will widen, and suddenly feel more infused with energy.

YOU will feel more alive.  You’ll realize that artists are all around you, and that the world is filled with creative wonder.  You’ll begin to feel the flow of that creative energy moving  around and through you.  You’ll never need to ask again, “What is creativity?”  You will know for yourself, and it will feel wonderful.

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