On Being a Perfectionist by Lindsay Zaroogian

 Well, this year I’d like to set that perfectionist attitude aside and listen to my gut more. It’s more important to try something and embrace “doing it wrong” as long as it means doing it at all. And as for the side of me that needs measurable results, I have 10 pounds I can stand to lose.

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Karmic Alchemy by Corley Pillsbury

Difficult situations happen. They just do. There is no way to avoid pain or hardship by gliding across the surface of life, avoiding the murky depths. My hope for myself – and for everyone – is to transmute grief, annoyance, jealousy, bitterness, and anger into fertilizer for my own growth. How can I become stronger, have more compassion, love more fiercely, be more bold – not in spite of my hardships, but because of them? Difficult situations happen. They just do. There is no way to avoid pain or hardship by gliding across the surface of life, avoiding the murky depths. My hope for myself – and for everyone – is to transmute grief, annoyance, jealousy, bitterness, and anger into fertilizer for my own growth. How can I become stronger, have more compassion, love more fiercely, be more bold – not in spite of my hardships, but because of them? 

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When the Waves Come by Jonathan Eric Foster

This is just one example out of countless challenges that we have faced that we got through by diving deeper. I could go on and on about how we have persevered through broken equipment, communication errors, people backing out after promising their help, and even technical outages. The best way to face a challenge is by meeting it head on. Running away is futile; trying to stay above it is useless.  

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Thank You, But For Real by Nyssa Duchow

It’s no secret that New York City is obsessed with speed. The faster, the better. There’s a lot of people who have a lot of stuff to do and barely enough time to do it all. After two years here, I’m still trying to find a consistent balance to the city’s pounding tempo. Especially with Thanksgiving around the corner, I wanted to remind myself how to slow down and breathe.

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On Purpose by Corley Pillsbury

 Just make a choice and see what happens – if the result is undesirable, make a different choice, and see what happens then. I want to treat life a bit like a toy chemistry set – I don’t want to blow anything up or start any fires, but I do want to combine unknown elements and see what kind of reactions occur. Because, as it turns out, the unknown isn’t some scary monster palace – it’s where all the fun is. Let’s go.

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The Passion Diet by Sarah George

In my opinion, treating your passion like a hobby is like going on a diet and never getting a cheat meal. I can't eat salad for the rest of my life just to fill up and never be satisfied. Eating salad makes me feel like a dinosaur - and everyone knows what happened to them. Also, I diet enough. I'm bad at it. I know you can't always have your cake and eat it, too, but I don't believe in cheat meals. I mean, I'm not going to eat donuts everyday - but you get the idea

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The Great Candy Corn Debate by Jonathan Eric Foster

My initial response was- well obviously everyone LOVES candy corn! Candy corn is a sweet little treat, it is very festive, and it also brings back such great childhood memories memories- going to harvest festivals, school Halloween parties, and trick or treating! However I was stunned to discover that there is a great divide on this issue - the comments ranged from “I LOVE CANDY CORN!!” to “is candy corn even edible?”

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Does Satire Reinforce the Status Quo? by Joshua Stenseth

A clown only serves to vent feelings of frustration and does not actually affect change. A smart ruler will allow this to exist. He or she allows fun to be poked at them so they appear to have been brought down a notch, but that power actually remains unchecked. The status quo remains. Furthermore, one can argue that it actually reinforces the power, in a way, because rather than dealing with a problem, moving on, or removing a corrupt power, our attention has continued to focus on the current power.

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The City is a Beast by Lindsay Zaroogian

The city is a beast. Over and over I hear, “It’s not for everyone,” or, “I could never live there.” I’ll be honest, I’m coming up on the 6 year mark and I’m still not convinced it’s possible to have a happy, balanced life here. In fact, a T&T company trip to Connecticut a few weeks ago reminded me how nice it is to breathe somewhere with greenery, see deer and bunnies instead of skunks and rats, and play somewhere away from the 8 million other people here.

But I don’t feel like sharing another first person view on life in the city. I’d like to take a look at city life via a different animal. Dogs didn’t just evolve beside us for thousands of years; they have arguably influenced the way we evolved, as we have on them. They might just provide a better reflection of ourselves than we can objectively view otherwise.

From working for 3 years in a dog daycare, I came to one definite conclusion: city dogs, by and large, don’t know how to be dogs! This is probably a result of their humans’ behavior and most likely can be corrected. These problematic behaviors aren’t seen that often in country dogs. Is it possible for a city dog to be balanced and happy? What are we humans asking of them that is preventing that?

Dog Etiquette

Riley and Gustav

When dogs meet for the first time, etiquette dictates an “I’ll sniff your butt, you sniff mine” exchange. Now, there can be dominance games that’ll play into this (most commonly seen when one dog won’t allow the other dog to sniff), but generally it’s the equivalent of our handshake. I’ve actually seen dog parents discourage the behavior. By all means, discourage the dominance games (you want your pup to be friendly, after all) but don’t stop the behavior because it seems inappropriate as a human. Guess what? Dogs are not human.

Dogs are incredibly social, and often dogs on walks want to stop and say “Hi” to each other. When a leashed dog isn’t allowed to stop and greet a fellow dog, it can lead to frustration that can manifest in other unwanted behaviors. Most commonly, this includes whining and barking, pulling on the leash, and even “leash aggression,” where the dog will end up lashing out at the dog if she gets close enough. If you recognize any of these behaviors in a city dog, it might possibly be the result of an anti-social parent!

Lack of Training

The number of dogs that don’t even know their name astounds me. Especially in a city environment, where a leash may not be enough on its own to keep your pup safe, every dog should know their name and have a basic recall command. A simple rep of come, sit, down, stay, and off can make a world of difference in a dog’s life. It gives you common language to communicate your expectations to your dog about his behavior. Dogs evolved with a desire to please us, so given the opportunity, they will strive to do so! It’s a simple job that they can fulfill.

No Barking

Beatrix

Here’s the thing: unless you have a basenji, your dog is going to bark. They evolved that way so that they could warn us about possible danger. Embrace that! Then teach your dog a command to signal, “OK, message received, I’ve got this, you can stop now.” It’ll result in less frustration on both sides of the relationship.

No Begging

Begging

Anyone who told you that if you don’t feed your dog human food, they won’t learn to beg is a big fat liar. Dogs are born knowing how to beg. Embrace it! A food-driven dog is that much easier to train!

No Licking

The first time I dog-sat, we hadn’t had a dog in the house for a few years and my mom commented, “I forgot how much dogs lick!” Dogs lick for many reasons. Taste is tied to smell even more for dogs, and scent is already their most important sense. Also, for the odd humans that don’t like puppy “kisses,” keep in mind that one way dogs show deference to their alpha is by cleaning their face (although contrary to common belief, they lick under your jaw to encourage you to regurgitate food for them, not for affection!).

Bed

What happens when dogs are asked to deny their natural instincts? Well, a dog denied the opportunity to be social will become anti-social. They won’t learn acceptable play, and if they did know at one point, they will forget from lack of use. Unbalanced dogs also tend to be neurotic or timid. Both extremes prevent a dog from entertaining their natural curiosity and they lose the tendency they have to explore. Many unbalanced dogs also find it difficult or impossible to be alone. The behaviors that manifest are highly varied, some are obnoxious, and many are destructive and even dangerous.

So a dog trapped in an urban setting, without a proper job to expend their energy on, will stop playing, stop exploring, and have trouble being alone… Anything sound familiar? Canine behavioral therapy involves a lot of finding what the dog most enjoys, redirecting that mental energy into a job, and expending pent up energy. We have one big advantage over our canine brethren: we can recognize our tendencies and consciously alter our behavior.

I have many canine tendencies and I certainly recognize those behaviors I listed in myself. I can easily tie this to not having a true “job” to expend my energy on. I fall into the trap of the city, working endless day jobs just to live. I forget to nurture what I actually enjoy and what I came down here to do. The first time I realized this was when I worked on the staged reading of The Butterfingers Angel with [by the mummers]. I was working 2 jobs, but rehearsal was the first time I hadn’t felt tired in years. I think it’s important to give yourself a job that you love. Expend energy on that and the city becomes less oppressive.

It’s possible for a dog to have a happy and balanced city life. It should be possible for us to do the same. And also, give yourself a break in the country from time to time. After all, even a city dog enjoys a run in a field and a good deer to chase!

Car Ride



Defenders of Music by Nyssa Duchow

Hello there, Nyssa here! I’m happy to say I’m back in NYC and already in the thick of it with the Thistles. We have some excitingnew ideas in the pot and are making some really great song covers, so keep a look out for those!

Being gone for so long, I’d forgotten how much subway commuting takes up your day, and consequently being in earbud land! I’ve finally jumped on the bandwagon and have started exploring podcasts. My favorite pick at the moment is a great show from 2009 entitled “Music and the Brain.” Their episodes range from exploring the scientifically proven results of music therapy to what neurons fire in the brain while someone is playing an instrument. I’m no scientist, but I really enjoy the show and the overlying message of the importance of music. I thought I’d use this blog post to share especially poignant topics in the podcast and how music is a central key in my own life.

I was especially moved by an episode with Concetta Tomaino, a classically trained pianist that went on to study music therapy. Now working with cancer patients, her treatments include creating playlists specific to each patient that would decrease pain and sensitivity and give patients opportunities to express their fear and anxiety with instruments and help them develop their own song. Ms. Tomaino knew firsthand what her patients were going through because she had gone through the same process battling breast cancer. On the podcast, she shared her frustrations that similar programs aren’t readily available. Although there have been numerous studies proving the beneficial impact of music therapy, the numbers just aren’t high enough to sway the medical community at large. Hearing Ms. Tomaino talk about her own experiences and those she’s witnessed working with others fighting for health left no doubt in my mind as to the power music brings out in all of us.

                                                                         Music therapy in action - photo via Pascale's Pals

                                                                         Music therapy in action - photo via Pascale's Pals

After listening to this episode, I began to fully appreciate how therapeutic music is within my own life. It’s disappointing how often music is undervalued when I’ve felt its healing properties myself. In crowded cities, where tempers run high and the feeling of obligatory decorum can be stifling, the right song can calm my body down before my brain’s realized it’s even happened. And what’s amazing is that song or style that brings instant relief is different for everyone. If you haven’t been moved by a piece of music, I strongly encourage you to keep looking. Explore new artists and, once you’ve found something you like, really sit with it. Without forcing anything or focusing too hard, observe how it affects your body. When, moments before, my brain could only register anger or anxiety, the right song puts a smile on my face in spite of myself.

And then, of course, there’s the act of playing music. Having an instrument is like having a pet – a stress reliever and a confidant. I hope everyone finds their outlet that lets them experience this escape. For me, it’s playing and listening to music. Being with my violin or guitar puts my mind in a meditative state, purely present, letting the body and the ear take control. I can’t imagine my life without music, so it’s the least I can do to defend its honor and try to give others the opportunity to change their lives, as well.  Join me as a Defender of Music, and make sure it always has a place in the development of medicine and education for the next generation and all who follow.

Nyssa Duchow fiddle

Dispelling the Myth of the Dreaded Nine-to-Five by Jonathan Eric Foster

I understand that the 9-to-5 lifestyle isn’t for everyone. However, I definitely recommend looking into it if you are tired of waiting tables. And to those of you who are thinking that a 9-to-5 will end your career as an actor, I will say this: Since taking on this new 9-to-5 way of life, I have been in two Shakespeare plays this summer and had ample time to meet with Thicket & Thistle weekly, and to direct our musical What’s Your Wish? for The New York International Fringe Festival.

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On Fearing the Future by Nyssa Duchow

So why do we fear the future?  Or specifically, in my case at least, why fear the unknown?  The unknown could bring treasures, adventures, surprises that delight and amaze!  But being unknown, who’s to say there isn’t pain, loss, and disappointment lurking around the corner? Does it come down to being an optimist or pessimist?  Those who have faith in the unknown and those who distrust it?  

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On Being the New Kid by Lindsay Zaroogian

For someone like me, who tends to be impulsive and without a filter, functioning in society means shutting down. It’s an acquired survival skill. But it’s not conducive to theatre. At all. So the trick is remembering how to turn back on. There was a time I knew how to be heart open. Working with this group is allowing me to relearn how to do that. Yeah, being the new kid can be pretty scary, but I’m also very lucky. Here’s this awesome group of people that’s invited me to come play. I’m so happy to do that.

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