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Sucker-Punched by “No”

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I’m sitting across the table from one of the Program Coordinators at a prestigious East Coast University. I know this programmer well as she has booked me every year for nearly a decade to perform LOVELAND and teach my Write Your Life Workshop. This year though, she says,

 Ann, I’m so sorry, but you can’t perform LOVELAND here anymore. The last time you performed, you triggered several students.

I feel as if I have just been sucker-punched. Trying to understand, I ask, “What part of the show triggered them?” but as soon as I ask, I realize it doesn’t matter. I’m not going to be allowed to perform on campus anymore. She goes on to say how much the university values my week-long workshop program, where I teach the students to speak their truth on the page and stage. But my story will be silenced. The hypocrisy makes me cringe. I walk out of her office and head to the nearest bathroom to cry.
I think about all the times in which I have performed LOVELAND on that campus. Those performances were some of my favorites, as the college kids got every nuance of the show and many stayed after each performance to share with me their own stories of loss in our post-performance workshops. It reinforces how I love performing and sharing stories with young audiences; it broke my heart to be told No.
Three hours later I’m back at the hotel, numbing out with vending machine goodies and watching Dirty Dancing on TMC. I should turn it off as I’ve seen it at least a dozen times, but I wait for the moment where Patrick Swayze says to Jennifer Grey, “Nobody puts Baby in the corner,” and he clasps her hand, they take the stage, and the rest is history, happy ending complete.
As I’m watching this, I remember all the times I’ve been told No and how each time, it’s fueled me to take the stage in a new way. It usually doesn’t happen right away because I often treat myself to a fabulous pity party first. Then, eventually, an idea comes – a new idea born out of the No. This time, I play the Wouldn’t It Be Nice game (thank you Abraham-Hicks) and think…”Wouldn’t it be nice to have my own venue where I can do whatever I wanted, when I wanted and live there too…”
And I thought where would I like to live if I could have my dream venue and I immediately thought of the north shore of Kauai.  I had led a yearly week-long writing retreat in Kauai for the last 6 years and had fallen madly in love with Hanalei Bay and the 3000 foot mountains dropping into the sea.  I wanted to move there and create a performance space and nestle into a home of my own, but I didn’t know how to make it happen. Periodically I would look online at Kauai’s real estate for the north shore and see median home prices of $3.2 million and turn off the computer thinking, “It’s totally impossible.”
And then a miracle happened.
A beautiful venue on Kauai’s North shore was offered to me. And not just any venue, but the Church of the Pacific, a beautiful sanctuary overlooking the Pacific ocean AND the pastor’s house.
A little backstory- in 2011  I  first met the Pastor of the Church. I had rented their sanctuary space for my retreat and as has become my custom, I was staying on the property in a little guest cottage

several hundred feet from the Pastor’s house. For some reason, I thought the Pastor had gone out of town and so I decided it was a fine time to work on one of my new characters for an upcoming show. Wearing a black bra, shorts, bright red wig, a dog collar, I had blacked out my teeth with paint, and tied myself in that dog collar to a chain wrapped around the front porch. I had hidden a video camera in the bushes and was doing my “work,” aka improvising and yes, creating new material getting in my zone. I was not holding back as I hollered at the camera in full character voice, “You left me tied up in the yard!”
Of course, just then the supposedly out-of-town Pastor returns and sees me chained up and hollering. I could see he was a bit freaked out (understatement) and possibly regretting his decision to have me as a renter (not an understatement). I quickly explained to him that I was working on a new character for my show…I don’t know if he believed me or not, but he took my hands in his, looked into my eyes  and said, “We welcome all kinds.”  That was 6 years ago and I knew in that moment, I had found home.
Weeks after my No, with my performance cancelled at the university, the Church of the Pacific called me and asked me to consider  living in the pastor’s house.  He retired the year before and the house was sitting empty. They invited me to lead my retreats year round and perform LOVELAND whenever I want.
I just signed the first lease for a property ever in my life. I can and will host retreats and perform year-round on this magical island with only one rule – Nobody puts anybody in a corner. The center will be liberating, free of censorship, and infused with Aloha. schedule, I’m excited to offer something else new and different.
Post Photos (top to bottom): Ann Randolph, Amanda McNaughton, KittenEnchantment, Ann Randolph

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