From September through December 2019, I set out on the road, traveling to over 25 stops across America, taking its pulse, listening, and performing interactive, musical, multimedia and interview-based improvised shows along the way. Come along with me, retroactively!

Who Am I?

Hi, my name is Charlotte and I am a theater-maker, song-maker based in New York City, and I create to celebrate human beings.

What I'm Doing

Tour time! I am visiting the north and southwest, then through the northern seaboard, to the midwest and down south, connecting with people through interviews and music-improvisational shows as I go.

At each stop, I’m staying with generous hosts who help me connect to folks around town. And then I get out and about, asking in video and/or recorded interviews the questions: How are you surviving? How is your vitality? How are you living? I’m touring to be delighted and surprised and to connect. In the spirit of John Steinbeck’s Travels with Charley in Search of America, I’m following my desire to take the pulse of America right now and investigate human vitality in such challenging, potential times.

Our world is polarized right now…

...and I’m headed out to connect beyond my bubble, to play with and learn how we humans are living vitally and vibrantly and share this back via performance and documentary. I see the integrity of humans being threatened right now and believe dearly in it. I go out to learn through connection, listening and offer reflective musical-improvisational performance.

Blog Archive

Well that was a walloping fun time. Wow! I’m astounded by the buttery loving welcome I received in Portland, OR, and I’m SURE it had nothing to do with my twin sister living there and some great friends connecting me to great musicians and putting on a show for an audience of friends of friends of friends. We had original music by a shooting star named Bonnie, we had a song written by the audience and an intrepid audience volunteer, we had first-time show played by a magically-talented bassist, we had a town-hall-like meeting between wise counselors, we had video collage blended with music improvised, and we had an inside-the-house fire started with cedar, a bow, and a clump of what looked like hair. And we had each other, we had a quorum of people, we had a community formed, in the operational sense of the definition. I loved throwing this performance together in 2 days and I also felt scared to death and like a limp fish. Limp fish who’s overwhelmed by details. I guess i’ve bitten off a lot to chew—why have I bitten off so much? It feels like so much, all the coordinating and the self-directing and the reaching out and interviewing and the filming and the show-writing and the planning and the grocery-buying and the driving and the staying and the checking in. But it’s also beautiful, it seems like how I want to do it. I want to be fully immersed in this project.

Portland felt, in some ways, like a New York City where I didn't know the rules yet. It good stumped me. Still stumped.

This project is on the move. I realized, I was gifted the insight in Portland that I can lighten up, that i’m not wanting to create and run somber seances nor am I looking to be some group’s new cult leader. I want to follow down ridiculous delight and joy, I want to believe in my reverence as I funny and connect with funny all over this country.

Now flown to Spokane and I’ve driven to Missoula from there. It’s been a long day of travel and if you’d like to see something truly funny, just watch me as I try to turn on the lights of a new car and drive it out of the airport. A blend of anxiety, inexplicable lack of self-confidence, excessive joy at small achievements, like driving on a highway. It’s beautiful, it’s grotesque.

Let’s keep writing a show! On to Bozeman. I’ll keep you in the loop.

Wow, it does feel like I’ve been here for 2 or 3 weeks but it’s, in fact, been 6 calendar days. Such a rich time! A real treasure-hunt detective time, filled with some great right-place-right-time moments. And such warm reception by my hosts, Matt and Helen, and Molly, who all showed me around town and got me connected and reconnected.

Some highlights: being reintroduced to a friend from college who happens to run the snazziest performance art center in Big Sky, MT. John and I were fans (to speak for him) of each other in college and even—guessable detail— sang a song together in an a Capella group. We can all hope to say that phrase sometime in life. So this friend/mover and shaker around town was so welcoming and invited me to come spend time with his 2 high school performance classes and take a tour of the space. He does pretty special teaching and coaching there with very on-their-game talented students and he brings amazing acts (Tig Notaro! Manual Cinema!) to the brand-spankin’ new theater. I’d love to perform there someday, real talk.

And went to a hot springs in Paradise Valley, a place with a fairly complicated past and future. Bison on the hillside. Sun shining on us, storm sky nearby. And that very day, on our return, we drove through a double rainbow and I am sure we were at the rainbow’s beginning/end, a place I’d obsessively tried to get to as a kid. Milestones.

I wasn’t sure a show could or was supposed to happen in Bozeman and then the timing opened up, thanks to some very helpful ideas from a few different friends around town, and I set the show for a geometric pavilion in a park. I called up some family friends and asked if they wanted to collaborate and be part of my show. M, a pro horseback rider and a newly-minted-7th-grader, did a spectacular workshop on how to find balance on a horse (and in life) and her dad shared Bozeman’s true name, The Valley of the Flowers, as a place historically and currently defined as a common ground and sanctuary, a place where no fighting happens and where all tribes are welcome. He spoke with us about the ways in which new tribes are coming in, asking us to consider how this can be a springboard for the future of Bozeman. And we the audience-participants all helped hold sheets over our heads so we could watch my video collages in broad daylight.

Still pondering how the video footage fits into all this. i’m not a video-maker, per say, but I get a certain cha-cha-cha (inspiration? excitement?) from cutting up and collaging video. Who knows what it’ll become. Taking video is kind of fraught for me…the most delicious or present moments talking with and hearing from people are not quite the moments when I want to take out a phone and film. I’m all ears from you more seasoned film-takers: how do you film while not bursting precious bubbles of in-the-now-ness? How do you communicate with people to set a dynamic of co-filming? I’m working up to making the whole game be asking newly-met-people-aka-strangers to film me to turn that a bit on its head.

I saw a production of Heathers: The Musical at The Verge Theater and was blown away. I haven’t seen a cast so on point, so alive, having so much and really talking to each other and doing something to each other and really singing and playing together in a long time. Woah. Not sure what to say about that because it was SURREAL and magical. I would like to write a musical for that gang because I want IN on that.

Bozeman is sometimes called Bozangeles and it is hard to leave. Many moments of surreal fascinatingness here and there must be layers here I haven’t delved in to, the layers behind what a visitor gets.

Feeling tender and very sweet about the world. On to Billings and then Wyoming and Colorado. Thanks for following my travels!

Oh hello everyone. Hello hello. Hi. How are you? I am very well, excited to try out a new show idea tomorrow. Also feeling a bit pulled in a few directions, a bit shaky still about where I should allow transformation and where I should hold steady in this project. We’ve said that the world is changing, we hear that phrase all the time, maybe we even experience change daily. I am feeling the realness of this change, the on-the-ground reality of needing to shift and alter a plan, to scrap central pieces. I’d like to say i’m completely riding the wave of intuition and fluidity but I’ve felt my share of fear and doubts and despair throughout. Something about shifting my plans is first exhilarating to me and then fear can set in. Got to get back up and try from the heart and from the gut!

Whatever am I talking about? I’ll start somewhere real and on a map…I left Bozeman with a lot on my heart/psyche/mind/bod, feeling accomplished for getting a show together and also a bit confused, a bit tired. Feeling like the show was a set up for some kind of expansion of awareness. I got to skedaddle to my friends’ lovely home outside of Billings and eat homemade (best) Hawaiian pizza (there was a bit of Hawaii talk in Bozeman…funny how we bring up distant places, sometimes in patterns) and rest. I had such a great time, I didn’t particularly want to rocket out so quickly but the wind was blowing and it was time to gust down to Casper. I stayed with a friend from the Peace Corps (we met on a mountain in Malawi, a sentence meant to showcase the sound of “m” words) and caught up, ate dinner at a Himalayan restaurant in one of Casper’s small main street malls, a dinner with journalists for the newspaper. I thought all this wind was very telling, like something unable to be defined by any non-wind-liver-wither but very much alive and lively. That place sang to me, with its riverside dog runs and silty sand and, trust my use of this word, opalescent sun, and all the sandy but grassy high hills and mesas.

Then I drove down to Cheyenne and hugged and got the tour from a good college friend. They’d completely redone and revitalized their home and I was astounded by how good-looking everything was there. And a yard with kale and I picked it and I grew kale wings and flew over the town for a while, taking in the old downtown, the gold state capitol building, the grid streets that were wide for all the western history and western need. I witnessed a dog jailbreak in a beautiful park with patchy service and my friend going in so far and not giving up until one of the dogs approached her goofily. I’m going to say she ran 35 miles and please don’t challenge me. It was a lot.

I noticed I felt a bit shy in Cheyenne. I felt the people were especially no-nonse and that I was especially ultra-nonsense. Fear makes me not formulate very good questions. But I also felt such a warmth for the people I was encountering…I wanted to make sure I offered something or paid my respects somehow. I spent one day wandering and getting a feel and talking but off camera. And then the greater part of two days attempting to collect recordings and footage. A big theme (and quite possibly very adaptive and positive) was how kind people are, how low the population and, in my experience, how insular the streets are. As in, I found it really freaking hard to approach people on the street without feeling like I had broken a great Wyoming social pact: “Though shalt not babble gibberish about your artistic interview project whilst I mindeth mine own business.”

The sunsets were spectacular. I found that all the people who said “low population” were white. I wasn’t sure there was a space in town for me to perform but felt a twinge of “you know you need to go back to Wyoming and perform and find a way to make sense and to make people laugh.”

My friend gifted me a cardtable that i’m already using to do crafts in public (plus amateur Tarot card reading) and I’m attempting to tap into more fun, more delight, less talky talky blah blah blah.

Will write next about Denver. Thank you so much, Cheyenne! And my generous hosts!

How’s life in your world? I’m feeling the need for spaciousness and taking a second look at how I jam-pack my schedule so I don’t have time to think straight or do things fully.

When I got to Denver, I was ready for a pause in collecting. I hadn’t been back to Denver since I was in college and it immediately felt better than that sad time I lived there after college. And now, again in this present timeline, I was so grateful for my friends taking me in and allowing me the rest. i’ve been told a million times (okay, maybe actually 20 times) by my best teachers that we don’t learn when we go too quick. I want to learn and I really want to understand. Feeling like a small spark trying to will a fire sometimes. Feeling like a town fool a lot. Really not sure how this thing will morph and already feel how it’s changing. Denver felt like a landing place and a place to collect myself and my show a little more. Up until then, and you can confirm this if you were present at the 2 shows before, I’d done somewhere between an improvisational seance/town hall meeting/woo-woo workshop, film collage show and tell and improv-a-thon. Great, those 2 shows were just the set-ups I needed. This Denver show was asking for the next step: structure. And I dreaded putting that in until the last minute (when I do all my work) and then jokingly made a powerpoint presentation about going on a tour and surprised myself at how useful it was, in corralling my tour-ness into a start-to-finish show thing. And the venue was so sweet and perfect…The Chimney Place, I love you! Jenny is very cool and a major friend to the artists (she’s a great singer-songwriter/maker herself) and made the whole experience welcoming, easy, good. And the sweet lights hanging over a rug-covered “stage” and a piano and mics and stools and all kinds of different chairs and downy couches…just my favorite type of performance space. And boy was it a reunion! Friends from the Peace Corps and college and NYC health education and was just right but made me realize I might need to work more to get audiences when I don’t have so many friends to call upon. Was a new night for me, my show being so new, and then showing it almost exclusively to friends. We know that dynamic: they’re kind of a tough audience because they love you already, they don’t need you to perform (but seriously you guys were a great audience.)

Brianna playing her beautiful music made it feel like a show and basically blessed the space. Bless these friends, if I can use that word. Have been reflecting on what love I receive from friends from all over.

The place I felt like canceling my tour and starting a whole new project was the Goodwill Outlet(?), aka the last place donated clothes go before they’re incinerated or used to cook airplane food, with these big bins and people who bark, “Find your line! Find your line! No shopping! No shopping!” and then, in the same way red light-green light is played, murmur flatly, “Shop!” and everyone dives in frantically. I was naysaying, mostly because I’m not supposed to acquire too much on this road trip, but I found it all fascinating, a little saddening, a little jarring, a lot exciting. I also found great things, like an apex-level pastel turtleneck shirt that makes me look like a Lisa Frank avatar. This was such a cross-slice of Denver and not the “I’m visiting so I’m mostly in visitor spaces” slice or, maybe more accurately, the “I’m white so I’m mostly in white spaces” slice. I believe I can say that, please forgive me if you don’t think so. I love all the slices, I want all the slices. And nothing is this reductive, it’s much more mystical, actually. I found Denver to swirl with different people and I felt a sense that the city is wanting to grab hold of and reaching out with their own threads to weave something together. It feels like it’s at that part of the river where the water is subtly speeding up because up ahead, maybe way up ahead, is a waterfall.

Thank you, Denver (and Denver friends), for the chance to regroup and put something new together, for the space via love, via catching up, rest, listening to new music, and a place to majorly land. It’s such a land-y place. The show I’m putting on needs so much work but realizing I need to and want to go in a more creative direction, as opposed to the straight, fairly (oops) academic interview-style I’ve used til now. Let’s get weirder!

Salt Lake City you old so and so. Had a quick time there but, as my parents live there, was comparably very different this visit than during others. Past/all other visits have consisted of me driving around with my mother to various beloved shops and by shops I mean grocery stores and just vegging and enjoying being swaddled by the non-New York City-ness of it all, by the mountains, by the non-crazy-pants-ness of my parents. In conclusion, I have always, and in the future will return to hermitting away whence visiting SLC. But this time, I went out (frankly this is radical) and set up a card table outside of a frequented coffee shop (I first dragged my shit inside and asked if it was okay to perch outside and they said “that is totally fine,” which struck me as an all-together overly reasonable for 2019) and asked people if they want to write out thoughts, words, feelings they had about SLC or anything. Some kids came up and asked if they could help so I interviewed them and then asked if they would video interview me. Then I went to check out a grocery store but chickened out…grocery stores are always a bad idea. Too much going on there, people are about their business and don’t want to be stopped unless it’s to give them something or ask them something grocery related. So I took my wares to the big public library and, because I was told by someone in events that they couldn’t issue permits inside the library without more lead time, set up right on the sidewalk (city property) and asked people if they’d like a free song. This was surprisingly fruitful, apparently people like free songs as much as I do!

Simply doing this art-on-the-street made me so much happier and made me feel readier for a show. The show idea came to me after fretting over and trying to understand what next step this project needed to take after the Denver show. Thanks to some great conversations with friends, it occurred to me that I wanted way more play and color in my connecting with people and it seemed like making a musical during the show would be so much more fun. So that’s what I planned for, but with very little actual structure. The audience in SLC was so game for the malarkey they had in store…lots to build on there and lots to shape up. But feel so much more onto the heart of this project with this step undertaken! How to keep the balloon in the air once you bat it up, that’s the question for every show. And, as well, what’s my goal? Or, maybe better said, how can I get out of the way of the show? Am about to head down into southern Utah for some nature thinking and not-thinking. Then Phoenix!

Hello! I’m about to write about Phoenix but I’m also writing about me and the west and plain ole’ living and southern Utah and this last leg of the first leg of this tour and adventure. I will not say “where to begin?” because that’s my job as the writer here and I definitely and completely know where to start. A certain R met me in SLC and we collected maps from my dad, maps that he has poured over and marked and actually used for years to get to far and away remote places in southern Utah, and set out to Moab and Bluff, first to have some tex-mex enchiladas in Moab and then to stay 2 nights at The Recapture Lodge in Bluff. This lodge has been in my family’s lore for a long time…Jim runs the place and invites scientists and adventurers to do slide shows (slide shows are one of 3 things advertised on their big road signs) and it looks very 70’s and desert-ish and they help you so much at the desk, answering all your questions and telling you where the best hikes are. Jim is like a fortune teller and says “for some reason, I think you should go to the Long Fingers hike in Comb Ridge, a little harder to get to but I think you’ll love it.” When R and I got into town, we went to eat dinner at Comb Ridge Eat and Drink, a very hip and very well-loved restaurant with Navajo rug patterns painted on the floor and the best bison short ribs and fish and chips (why? what witchcraft is this?) in the world maybe. It’s hard to get a table at 8 pm but we waited outside on some whicker chairs (I think Utah likes whicker) and the air was peaceful and warm. The waiter joked that my ID looked fake and then abruptly stopped joking when I said “yes, it is” and said I shouldn’t joke about that. The next day, we had a leisurely experiment in making pour-over coffee at a communal table in the lodge surrounded by visitors from German and Australian corners of the world. My coffee-drinking partner likes me to focus on the chemistry of pouring and keep my social butterflying to a minimum in the morning. Then we bought some weird lunch deli food and set out for a long-ish drive down a dirt road along Comb Ridge to our trail. We hiked in, saying let’s go about 2 hours. I had some lizard-brain-anxiety that i’d lead us onto the wrong trail or not recognize the right one on the way back and tried to memorize tree branches and rock spills as we walked. We came to a big granary complex (this sounds so official) and saw petroglyphs of spirals and big horn sheep and matate/blade-sharpening dips in the rocks and a big cave and I tried to make it onto the ridge but couldn’t quite justifying shimmying up a wedge and then, on our way back through the canyon, I looked up and saw the red handprints that i’d missed and somehow knew where there and I said “yes!” The wind whipped up in conversational ways. We walked back and I was pleased with my memorized landmarks (my attention-span DOES work!) and we got to scramble up onto the smooth grey rock ridge and run up it a bit before heading back to the car, exactly 2 hrs after starting. R was a little unsettled by the stark dryness of the land. We sat in the river at Sand Island and heard people loading their rafts up at the boat put-in nearby. We saw an 11,000 year old mammoth petroglyph on a walk and I put my face up close to it. R woke up halfway through my drive up the Moki Dugway, a switchback road up a mesa that’s just something you do. It’s a puzzling drive and I wondered why i’d done it but I wanted to see what it was like. I got a little dizzy up so high. Monument Valley is like another planet and we stopped and I bought something from a silver craftsman. We called a restaurant in Page, AZ where we’d be staying and they said we should get there no later than 7:30 so we don’t miss the live music, dancing, history lesson and storytelling. We laughed so much at our good fortune and the drive was gooey and beautiful with glowing light and glops of rock formations. Driving down into Page, you see the glistening unthinkable water of Lake George and 3 tall stacks of a water power generation plant. We said “this looks like a superfund site.” R asked me where I had taken us. We stayed in a BnB that was absolutely just someone’s house, where they were having a family pizza party when we came in. Big John’s BBQ had live music and lots of meat and communal seating and we ate all that meat. Page kind of saved with it’s bizzaro nexus of people and offerings and plain ole-ness but we also shook our fists at the breakfast options, flying down in the hybrid car 2 hours to Flagstaff to get some food. This was vacation and a small time to percolate all the fullness of the tour so far. Looking and hoping and waiting for some clear thinking. Experiencing and seeing if this whole thing could work. Looking for hand prints on rock walls.

Hello this is a blog about Phoenix. I didn’t take any video, it’s something I didn’t feel like doing. I wanted to see what it would be like to not collect anything visual/any footage. I recorded some sounds and some conversations. I drove around and saw the city and walked and almost got in an accident. I saw palm trees and heard seagulls and beheld the wide boulevards and wondered if I was at the ocean. I keep having to remind myself where I am. When I got there, I was a bit preoccupied with getting myself back into the project after a few days of rest and adventure in southern Utah. Getting settled and feeling disoriented in such an austerely beautiful desert place. And a pretty real city compared to Bluff, UT. I spent some time at the goodwill and played with a little girl and normal-sized mother who were shopping through an extensive collection of kid’s Disney princess dresses. I was there on a gut feeling that I needed different hats for the show I’d spur-of-the-moment set up at Trunk Space, hats to wear and hats to hand out to audience. Booking the space was weirdly easy- my friends, Michael and Gregory, introduced me to their friend Steph who runs an experimental music-art space off of a church the first day i’d arrived in Phoenix and I went by the next day and set up the show for the following day. Now the problem of finding musicians and getting an audience there. What a fun plan I made for myself!! Steph gave me contact info for a bunch of musicians and I feverishly texted everybody on her list. Three, count ‘em, three said yes! Now i’m feeling pretty proud of myself. I kind of figured I would just get an audience there; Steph posted about it and with 3 musicians, I was sure somebody (?) would show up. In the meantime, Gregory, a prolific/amazing artist and professor at University of Phoenix, had me visit his class. I was nervous, not sure I knew exactly how to behave or how to share my very-flexible-free-form project and show with his class. I brought in a wee project for them: to walk them through an experience of creating a new symbol for Phoenix, jumping off of the existing symbol of a Phoenix burning and rising from the ashes to something more…future? something less burning up-oriented? This was a chance to try out something new and also made me think about grad school and what’s next for me. Sometimes I just want to ask people what they want for the future and I don’t ask myself. Have to ask myself. Think that’s the whole point. Collected and heard and saw a lot of sentiments about the area, about inner lives, about people, about the future. And then the show was interesting, terrifying, beautiful, messed up, maybe a hot mess. The musicians showed up and were so game to play, so little explanation was needed. Thank you CJ, John and Seth for being such bosses. I had a talk with myself that I would focus on how I wanted to feel and not how the whole thing looked. I wanted this musical to go well, for the few people I knew who were coming, and for everyone. The beginning of the show was a little rough, a little self-conscious and frankly nobody looked like they wanted to be there or anywhere. Nobody looked like they wanted to exist and I couldn’t blame them. But by the end of the show, I don’t know how/maybe by virtue of simply staying and keeping-going, the audience had on all different kinds of hats and were sing-introducing their new personas and we finished with a song about boogers, the bigger the better. Ridiculous, beautiful, strange, part of a process. Not perfect, not even in the neighborhood of perfect. So hot in Phoenix, weird wide boulevards, mailing my parents’ backpack back to SLC with maps inside. Returning the rental car and hoping it’d be okay, even if I might’ve lightly tapped another car in traffic not two days prior while having an out-of-body experience because I was stressed. Nobody said nothing and I got on the plane to Denver to stay the night with a friend. I took the train from the airport and walked from to her house and everybody looked at me like a hobo.

Hi. Hello. Have been in Portsmouth slash Kittery for the past week. I mean frankly it’s been a freaking dream. Before that, I was in New York for a hot second, which was a beautiful trip. I missed the city and was also a little repelled and amused and turned around, with my big luggage. I might’ve eaten some stress chicken nuggets in Penn Station and it occurred to me that if I finished all of my chicken, I would have to stay at Penn Station for an eternity or at least until I could trick someone into buying chicken nuggets from me so I put down the last piece and fled to Brooklyn. At some point, after a Brooklyn revisit at a dear friend’s house, getting dinner at Lahori Chili with my man friend, I went back to the chicken-hellscape that is Penn Station and headed to the wilds of New Jersey for a few days. There I got to reunite with some wonderful humans/music-makers/movers and shakers and facilitate a music and community workshop (how to share music paperlessly). We were in the woodsy/fieldy part of NJ, horse stables and gentleman’s farms. Felt strange and wonderful and unnerving to teach something I knew so well from a different place, a place of newness in me from touring.

Portsmouth, Kittery. So nautical, so ocean, so New England, so old. So white. Or is it? Am I so white? Don’t answer that. First night I got there, my friend Guy invited me to come sing with him at a Tom Petty tribute show. Every other band was so good and rehearsed, we barely knew the songs, so we sprinted to the green room and played the songs again while cackling. I know I was cackling, he might not have been. Amazing visit, such a generous friend, beautiful house, ocean realness. Guy helped set up all this fun-ness and brought folks together- the show was the night after I got there at the radio station, a magical place with the right amount of rugs and chairs from different places and lights strung across a slightly lifted stage and a live-taping of a radio show happening throughout. And then Rebecca and Jim read poems and Craig buttered the whole roll with the best music and Guy and I played songs from our RPM album and then the audience helped me put on a show and guys it was the closest yet to what I want this new for of show/workshop/seance to look and feel and sound like. So much good food and hanging out and good times there in Kittery. I feel like a real fancy person saying Kittery. Thanks Guy and all the sweet people there and the music that fills that place up, thanks for that humane visit. On to….Boston! and Pittsburgh!

The show

radio show

ocean visit