A Walk Down Craft Ave~ Memories of the Pittsburgh Playhouse

Pittsburgh Winter 1999

I went to college in Pittsburgh. I lived in Tucson, Arizona before that. It was a strange decision to move there. But they had musical theatre as a major and I was accepted and they gave good scholarships. I thought the little city and cold weather would be good practice for New York. I didn’t know what I was doing, but I went alone to a place where I knew no one.

The whole town was beyond different from the Southwest. I was lost. And confused. I was trying to understand so many new things. It was a hard time for me.

Years later, I’m absolutely smitten with the city and it’s loving people. And the theatre there is magical, supportive and life-changing. It’s one of my most favorite places in the world.

But in college, I had been used to the shorter history of the West and most buildings were newer where I came from. The Pittsburgh Playhouse was our theatre and is an anomaly, even to folks who grew up accustomed to the beauty of deep history. We performed, took class, rehearsed and worked inside the Playhouse, which was basically a pile of different buildings that were strewn together with secret hallways and staircases. The love for theatre joined together an old restaurant, a brothel, and a synagogue.

I feel like when we’re little kids, the way that we imagine any place to be what is in our minds, the unlimited possibilities of that, I feel like that is how the Playhouse really is. Walking through it feels like how parts of dreams come together- like it doesn’t make sense but it did at the time and it doesn’t need to.

Theatre seems to be a place where we can create like those little playing kids. And this building was a physical representation of putting things together to create something new. It felt like our giant treehouse rooted on the ground, made of cement, wood, love, and ghosts.

People had said they had gone down to the old restaurant and seen the entire room filled with happy, partying ghosts. The costume room still scares the living bejesus out of me. I think a friend saw a woman’s face in the little square window in the door, even though no one was inside. These are stories I’d be so mad to read if someone else wrote them. Sorry if I’m scaring you. I’m scaring me too.

Theatres always have ghost lights, a single lightbulb on a metal pole on wheels, that they put on the stage overnight. We were told stories about the ghost light and ghosts on the Rockwell stage, while we were standing on the Rockwell stage during our orientation. I was so scared that I blocked it out. And to this day, I don’t know if the ghost lights are there to ward off ghosts, or to help them see while we’re gone. I don’t want to know. Don’t tell me.

Anyway, this old place would receive new coats of paint like a neglectful dad repeatedly buying his kids candy to make up for it. We couldn’t really change the structure or rebuild the inside, maybe for financial reasons, maybe for structural ones. But boy did we paint it.

I got used to that. And now that they’re tearing it down to build a new theatre downtown in its place, I’m sad that we can’t just put another layer of paint.

I know that it logically makes sense to give something new and sturdy to the students coming to learn. And the caretakers of this old beast are probably exhausted from holding its organs together. But it’s sad that we won’t be able to visit our memories in the same way. We won’t be able to see, touch and smell them.

There will be pictures, and videos, programs, newspaper articles, costumes, set pieces, scripts, music, songs to sing and people… priceless friends and strangers with stories who remember.

But right now there is something that joins us with strangers we never knew who have passed on. It even houses some of them as ghosts. A lover of haunted places visited and said they felt an aura of entities, “Nothing evil, just perhaps all theatre enthusiasts, who find the performances a wonderful diversion from what is keeping them in this world.”

I think theatre can act as a diversion for what is hard for us in this world too. Other times it can act as a mentor, a question inspirer, or a glue that makes us realize we’re not alone. I felt alone when I arrived in Pittsburgh. It took a long time for the city and I to understand each other. This sweet place was part of all of that.

I hope someone films the view of walking all the hallways. Places like this don’t get made anymore. I think they’re important. They encourage imagination because they are proof that things can be unique and work. And they seem to attract people who were the type of children that liked playing with the box of the gift more than the gift.

Pittsburgh itself is filled with gift-box people though. So I think the new theatre will be in good hands. I just wanted to share that I’m sad. And share some of the wonderful uniqueness of this place.

I hope the good hands that continue the tradition of the Playhouse also leave a map to the new theatre for the ghosts. But they’re so good at navigating secret passages, they might find it on their own anyway.

Sending love to fellow Playhouse memoristas!


The 1st Time I Heard Women Were a Minority


I remember the first time I heard that women were a minority. I was 22.

I grew up in South Carolina. My mother was a successful business woman. As kids, we were taught that it was important to treat everyone equally and with love. I moved to Arizona and finished high school there, then went to college in Pittsburgh. For 22 years, no one ever mentioned to me that women were a minority.

I took my senior of college year “off” and went home to Arizona where I took core classes at Pima Community College. My sociology teacher was a woman, a lawyer, who had graduated from Oxford. She mentioned minorities and casually listed women as part of the group. “Eeeek… How embarrassing for her,” I thought. “She doesn’t know there are more women than men…” I raised my hand. I would let her know. (Ha!) “There are more women than men in the US.” “Yes, I know,” she responded. “So they aren’t a minority,” I said. “Yes they are…” And then my female teacher explained to me that in my country, I am considered a minority, even though that isn’t based on math… It’s not based on the actual percentages of people, which is what I thought defined the word “minority.”

That was very jarring.

I think it’s misleading to call us a minority when we aren’t in the minority. It lets words familiarize us with an untrue concept. It’s said as though it is true. And I think some people may start to believe that we are actually in the minority.

A more truthful usage of the word would be “Women are treated like minorities.” If we said this, it would remind us each time it’s said that it’s about the treatment and not the math.

And that might lead us to think more about how we treat people in the minority differently than those in the majority.

And that could focus our attention on equalizing that treatment.

Since we are all created equally, it seems strange that these distinctions are made at all.

Also, if our heritage was broken down honestly, where “white” wasn’t an ethnicity, but instead, the actual countries of origin were listed, the ratio of minorities would be much more equal.

On my mom’s side, I’m Mexican, Native American- Tigua, Apache, and Yaqui, most likely Sephardic which is Spanish-Jewish… And on my dad’s side, I’m English, Scots-Irish, German, and Swedish. But on government forms, I can often only choose one place of origin. But if I’m allowed to check more than one box, they are only for my mom’s side. For my dad’s side, the only option is always “white.”

If we had honest boxes, where we included the beautiful, real pieces of our heritage, most likely the percentages of majority and minority would be much more even. And again, honest.

I wish those boxes said things like Hungarian, Italian, Irish… When it comes to food or drinking, we don’t think those places have the same “white” food. St. Patrick’s Day isn’t a time where “white” people have delicious homemade lasagna and play croquet. If I mistake a person from New Zealand as Australian, they are rightfully upset. These are all different places with unique, lush histories. And most of the time, we celebrate these differences. But the boxes that end up defining the word “minority” (except in regards to women) lump all these people together to form a false “majority.”

I find that people already have enough ways to have low self esteem. And that lack of autonomy and self love manifests in all sorts of addictions, anxieties and sadness. We don’t need to add more subconscious judgement to the fire. It hurts the people who may end up with a falsely inflated sense of self, and it hurts the people who may end up with a falsely deflated sense of self. Extremes either way take us away from walking the earth knowing we belong just as our true selves. I see that we’re changing and growing little by little and I’m very grateful for that. But I still wanted to share my feelings.

The article below is from 2015, I just read it today. Its respect for the power of words is what reminded me of my experience at 22 and inspired me to share. Thanks for listening. To those of you around me for those first 22 years, thank you for leading me into a world of equality. I find that my thoughts affect my feeling of freedom, which affects my actions, and I’m really grateful for the loving thoughts you all shared. 

A bit about the article: Apparently some places outside of the US, like Europe, Africa and Hong Kong, regularly use the word “expats.” In America, I rarely hear people use the word expats. These countries use the word when referring to “white” foreigners working in their country, but they don’t use it to describe people of other races who are also working in their country. There are different words for those workers. The Guardian quotes The Wall Street Journal saying, “Some arrivals are described as expats; others as immigrants; and some simply as migrants. It depends on social class, country of origin and economic status. It’s strange to hear some people in Hong Kong described as expats, but not others. Anyone with roots in a western country is considered an expat … Filipino domestic helpers are just guests, even if they’ve been here for decades… It’s a double standard woven into official policy.” Click for full article:


Jada & Gabrielle Share about Codependence

I ADORE THIS. !!! Thank you thank you thank you both for sharing!! Please, anyone who comes across this post, watch this wonderful video. If anyone watching this can’t afford an AJ (the wonderful life coach), I highly recommend reading Codependent No More by Melody Beattie. It, and the journey it starts, has helped me so much and changed my life.

It’s about $12 on Amazon or free in this Youtube video.

I’ve been learning new behaviors, much like the experiences shared in this video, over the last 3 years and while it’s an ongoing process, it has given me clarity and an understanding of the world in a way that I never had.

The video only mentions codependence one time, but in learning about the word over the years, it means so much more than what it sounds like, and most of the subjects in this video fall under its umbrella.

Although there is not one single definition of codependence, and there are over 50 codependent traits, where I am today, I could see a short definition of it as “being someone who has a difficult time maintaining my authentic self in front of others” or as “being dependent on anything else to fill my self-esteem or to distract me from my lack of it.” The word “anything” leaves the range of options very open! And that range often includes extreme opposite behaviors, like people pleasing vs. isolation, even though both equal codependence. The result of the dependence on outside sources for self-esteem is usually an unhealthy relationship with oneself and others (or vice versa), which creates an inability to have real intimacy, which can lead to deep sadness and anxiety.

I didn’t recognize any of these behaviors in myself. I thought I was fine. But I knew my closest relationship left me feeling an ache that was dangerous. Luckily, someone opened up vulnerably in front of me about her imperfect relationship and after years of swallowing my pain, I randomly opened up to her. She told me to read that book.

I’m growing bit by bit toward real intimacy finally. Progress not perfection is a daily goal now. And as someone who never wanted to let anyone down, imperfection terrifies me, but finally makes room for me to live, take up space, and experience real authenticity and love with myself and others around me who are interested in authenticity and love.

I used to think that love was sacrifice or was shown by proving I would never abandon. I used to think I had to be needed in order to have a friendship or relationship. To learn what a healthy relationship is is mind-blowing to me. When I started to learn and accept my true self, I could let go enough to not be needed. To trust that without earning, I can be wanted. Just for me as I am now. Whew, that’s terrifying to write! But the times I’ve been able to put it into practice, it’s beautiful and creates real connection for me.

I had heard so many wonderful ideas in my life. Like “Be grateful” or “Detachment is healthy.” But in this journey, I’ve found that those ideas start at the end. Detachment hasn’t come first for me, self-acceptance, autonomy and self love are coming first, and detachment and gratitude are beautiful byproducts. I couldn’t let go until I had myself, my gut instinct and something bigger than me, to hold onto and trust.

It’s a daily struggle, but now I have many imperfect people around, who are also focused on healing, to grow with, and many tools to try to reconnect to love. I forget all day long. I was so practiced the other way for so long. I worry in a loop, I criticize my almost every thought, I use whatever I can to distract myself from feeling or healing. But when I can authentically allow love back in, the world shifts in a blessed way. It has been horribly difficult to learn this. But I’m beyond grateful for it all.

I believe that the type of individual growth Jada & Gabrielle are sharing about helps people heal and slowly start to manage addiction, anxiety and depression. It’s so good to see this deep discussion by people in the limelight. So grateful to these ladies for their vulnerability! THANK YOU again!!!!!

Sending love to those currently healing and who hope to heal