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Love Letter to Reading, PA

I think it’s time to start blogging again. We moved to San Jose, California, two weeks ago. Nothing will ever be the same.

I’m sitting here at 10:42pm in my house full of boxes (empty of our things but full of packing paper), watching a video of my best friend’s daughter lead her chickens to their pen. It’s so simple and beautiful, and it makes me so happy to see the little girl full of joy and so sad to know that I won’t see her grow up in the same way I thought I would.

There is something so sweet about living in a small town place, where you find your friends and cling to them for dear life because they are all you have. In a conservative place where the first question someone asks is, “Where did you go to high school?” – we freaks and weirdos have to stick together. And by freaks and weirdos, I mean artists, creative, creators.

When I first moved to Reading in 2008, I hated it. I had so much in Bethlehem, a real sense of community. I was a part of a theatre community, a yoga community, a Jewish community. I ran into people I knew at the grocery store.

But I fell in love with David and his kids, so off to Reading I went. The first person I remember meeting in Reading was Joel. There were others, but Joel changed the course. I auditioned for a children’s play he was directing, and we talked for hours. We got each other. He was the real deal. My old friend Adam, from Touchstone, was in that play, which made the transition easier.

More plays with those two, and then others, went by. We three discussed reviving the Reading Theater Project, a company Joel had started in 2003, and Joel asked me to be the Artistic Director. He gave me the greatest gift. In 2012, after a children’s theatre production, several of us, including Joel and Adam plus Chris and Christine and Amy, decided to give it a go and make the Reading Theater Project happen. We found more folks along the way and made something great happen.

Theatre made my life in Reading possible. My family too, but differently of course. They would be there anywhere I went. Always a rock. But theatre was the fire, and in Reading of all places, I found the oxygen to feed it. We made theatre about local history. Improv and sketch comedy. New plays written by me and other local writers. We brought people together, the freaks and the weirdos. We made an artistic home.

Reading made it possible. In a bigger city, in a richer arts community, this group of people would not have come together. But we were desperate for each other, and we clung together for dear life.

In Reading, I was an actor, a director, a playwright, a librettist, an artistic director. My biggest creative project was, of course, Abraham Spinoza Graff. Through him, through being a mom, I met some of the best friends I have ever had. Women I love and who love me for who I am. That’s rare.

And magically these two worlds came together. The mom friends and the theatre friends and me. I was never comfortable with the collision of worlds, but Reading made it possible. We needed each other.

Oh, Reading. If I knew then what I know now. There is a beauty in knowing what happens next. In the predictable. There are always surprises too, to keep the predictable unpredictable.

Besides my people there, there is so much more about Reading that I will miss: West Reading, my home there, is inviting and vibrant. Business owners who believe in supporting community and each other. The green mountains and trails that I never walked enough. The Farmers’ Markets where you can talk to the humans who knew the cows that you are going to eat for dinner, so you know those cows were happy cows. Always running into someone I knew. Never feeling lonely in a crowd. The city on the brink that needs people to invest and commit to it to move it forward.

I went from loathing to loving. My heart is full of Reading. Something I would have never predicted, but I am delighted to have discovered. For years I wanted to leave, and now leaving was one of the hardest and saddest things I’ve done. What the hell, Reading?!

I know the relationships that matter will continue. I know we will visit (twice in November! sheesh!). But it will be like coming home from college; verfremdungseffekt. It will be Brechtian, no longer my place. I will look at it from the outside.

I am confident I will move forward. I’ll find my artistic community here. I will find great collaborators, an artistic home. But it won’t be the same, and I don’t want it to. I don’t think it will be better either, just different. Part of why we came to California was OPTIONS. That’s my mantra right now. In Reading, the joy was in the predictable. Here, the joy is in the options. I can tell already I will love it here (so much theatre! public transportation! Iyengar yoga!), but the transition is hard. Though I’m glad it’s hard.

Thank you for being awesome, Reading. Keep it up.

4 thoughts on “Love Letter to Reading, PA

  1. Beautiful. Here’s hoping that your distant friends remain always near. Here’s hoping that you also find in your new home, for all its comforts, new friends that you that you can–and must–hold on to for dear life.

  2. How thoughtfully written and beautiful to read. All best to you in your new place…I have very similar feelings…nice to read a writers’ words about a place I love too! Grusse from Switzerland…

  3. I’m not sure how I found your blog. I used to blog and follow lots of blogs and still read a few. We moved to Silicon Valley 3 years ago. If you ever want to stop by for coffee and a friend in the area, email me. My kids are 6 and 2. I live in Los Gatos.

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