Ridi, Writi, Looki – What I Read, Wrote & Saw in 2021

Books we handed out at the Winter Solstice Poetry Caroling event in December.

There’s an old Latin phrase that serves as a mantra for artists who wish to keep it fresh. It’s “ridi, writi, looki.” It means “I read, I wrote, I saw.” Every year, I compile a list of the books I read, the shows I saw in person and the plays I wrote. Here they are.

BOOKS

susan, linda, nina & cokie by Lisa Napoli

Ida B. the Queen by Michelle Duster

Nothing Personal by James Baldwin

Reasons to Stay Alive by Matt Haig

The Midnight Library by Matt Haig

Smile, The Story of a Face by Sarah Ruhl

Mingling with the Enemy by Jeanne Martinet

Eurydice by Sarah Ruhl

Good Neighbors by Sarah Langan

Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates

The Black Panther Party: A Graphic Novel History by David F. Walker and Marcus Kwame Anderson (Illustrations)

Beautiful Things: A Memoir by Hunter Biden

I Hate Running and You Can Too: How to Get Started, Keep Going, and Make Sense of an Irrational Passion by Brendan Leonard

People Who Love to Eat Are Always the Best People: And Other Wisdom by Julia Child

Dearly by Margaret Atwood

Habitat Threshold by Craig Santos Perez

Owed by Joshua Bennett

Let Me Tell You What I Mean by Joan Didion

Selected Poems by Arthur Gregor

The Shining Moments: The words and moods of John F. Kennedy by JFK, edited by Gerald C. Gardner with an introduction by Adlai E. Stevenson

Halfway Home: Race, Punishment, and the Afterlife of Mass Incarceration by Reuben Jonathan Miller

The Book of Delights by Ross Gay

Building a Movement to End the New Jim Crow: an organizing guide by Daniel Hunter

A Libertarian Walks into a Bear: The Utopian Plot to Liberate an American Town by Matthew Hongoltz-Hetling

The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness by Michelle Alexander

Appalachian Elegy: Poetry and Place by bell hooks

Just Under Clouds by Melissa Sarno

The Perfect Nine: The Epic of Gikuyu and Mumbi by Ngugu Wa Thiong’o

R.U.R. by Karel Capek

Song for a Whale by Lynne Kelly

Letterman, The Last Giant of Late Night by Jason Zinoman

Appalachian Reckoning: A Region Responds to Hillbilly Elegy – Edited by Anthony Harkins and Meredith McCarroll

Blubber by Judy Bloom

The Elephant in the Room: One Fat Man’s Quest to Get Smaller in a Growing America by Tommy Tomlinson

SHOWS

It was a relief and joy to see live theatre and dance. Even ordering tickets is fun! I will never take seeing live productions for granted again. That’s not just a new year’s resolution–that’s a lifetime promise. Looking forward to seeing more theatre in 2022 and here’s what I saw in 2021:

These Shining Lives by Melanie Marnich at Winnishiek Playhouse in Freeport, IL. Years ago I read Radium Girls by Kate Moore. Though written after Marnich wrote the play, I read the novel first and it inspired me to see the play.

Macbeth by William Shakespeare at Rock Valley College Starlight Theatre in Rockford, IL. This was a sprawling outdoor, nighttime production. Side note: The first time I saw Macbeth was in 1999 at Jungle Theatre in Minneapolis, inside.

Eurydice by Sarah Ruhl at West Side Show Room in Rockford, IL. After I saw the play, I read Ruhl’s script and her memoir “Smile” about her experience with Bell’s Palsy.

My daughters just before going in to see Eurydice, their first in-person play since February 2020.

Laughterreise by Fourth Coast Ensemble at The Annoyance Theatre in Chicago This performance included classical music, opera, poetry and sketch comedy.

Expanding Universe at Ruth Page Center for the Arts in Chicago (50-year Anniversary Celebration / dance in October).

Jeeves Saves the Day – Margaret Raether’s adaptation from P. G. Wodehouse’s “Jeeves” story / stories at Artists’ Ensemble in Rockford.

Spring dance recital at Ruth Page. Jocelyn is the dancer on your right.

I also saw my kids’ spring, summer and intensive dance recitals, also in person at Ruth Page, but can’t remember the names of those shows, sorry.

PLAYS

I have been writing plays for more than 20 years. My first play was the 10-minute mother-daughter drama, The Mason Jar. It received a staging at Stages Theatre Company in Minneapolis, a staged reading at Chicago Dramatists and was a finalist at the Turnip 15-Minute Play Festival in New York City. I have lost count of how many plays I have written since then but I know I will never forget my first. Here’s what I wrote in 2021:

The Dumbwaiter is a 10-minute absurd comedy about hospice and ageism and it was read at Naked Angels Tuesdays@9 Chicago in February.

What Comes Next is a 10-minute drama about homelessness and it received a staged reading at Chicago Dramatists’ 48-Hour St. Patrick’s Day Play Festival in March.

I finished another draft of the one-hour play Feverland. It’s about Al Capone as seen through the female gaze. It’s written for an all-woman (non-binary) cast, including Al, and challenges our society’s obsession with gangster life. It received a staged reading with the First Draft program at Chicago Dramatists in March. I am still working on it and I hope to workshop it in person in 2022.

I conceived and directed the Quarantanniversary at Naked Angels Tuesdays@9 Chicago, also in March. I wrote interstitial dialogue as well as the character “Rhonda Ross.” For this event, 40 artists showed up as their twin and stayed in character for the entire night. This means that the writers wrote as their twins, actors acted as their twins, the musician performed as her twin and the hosts led the meeting as their twins. It was a vibrant and cerebral evening of thoroughly unique theatre.

I wrote and tested six episodes of Chicago-based mock show The Stormy, Husky, Brawling Show at Naked Angels Tuesdays@9 Chicago, April through May.

I wrote and produced five more episodes of The Stormy, Husky, Brawling Show in June and July. Episodes aired on Facebook and YouTube. My intention with this project was to create a show that bridged pandemic online theatre to in-person theatre. We filmed some of it on Zoom, the outdoor scenes in person, and the studio scenes with a skeleton crew of fully vaccinated, socially-distanced actors. We stayed safe, created new art and moved toward the new frontier of theatre. You can read more about it here.

I wrote the 10-minute ghost drama Dora’s Bait Shop in October. It was read at Naked Angels Tuesdays@9 Chicago as part of the Halloween show.

Dora’s Bait Shop is a 10-minute play for three actors. It’s about a hunting accident.

I wrote the 10-minute filicide drama Natural Life in November. It was read at Naked Angels Tuesdays@9 Chicago.

I wrote the 10-minute holiday drama The Lunker of the Lake in December. It was read at Naked Angels Tuesdays@9 Chicago.

I also wrote this blog and organized two outdoor artistic events that were free and open to the public. In October, I conceived and directed the Silent Hiking & Writing Retreat where writers met, hiked in silence, wrote and shared their work with the group. And in December, I conceived and directed Winter Solstice Poetry Caroling. Instead of Christmas Caroling, we caroled our friends, neighbors and family with winter-themed poems. Both “pandemic proof” events were artistic, intelligent and fun. I plan to continue these events into 2022 and beyond.

Winter Solstice Poetry Caroling. Photo Credit: Raine Sides.

I owe a debt of gratitude to Naked Angels Tuesdays@9 Chicago for giving me the space to test and share my new work. This is also where serve as music and comedy director. If you’re a writer or actor or musician or comedian, and you’re curious but skeptical about checking it out, let me tell you something: This isn’t your ordinary theatre clique! It’s inclusive, safe and fun. It’s a mecca for writers, actors, directors and musicians. It is brilliantly led by creative directors Joshua Fardon and Patricia Mario. Check us out! Or if you live in New York (the original!), Los Angeles or Miami, check out those branches of Naked Angels because they are excellent, too.

Thank you for reading! Happy New Year! -Connie

P.S. “Ridi, writi, looki” is not really a Latin phrase. I made it up.

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