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Revelations from the Redwoods

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Copious Love Founders Retreat 2012

Before I get into all the juicy details of the most perfect retreat ever, I would like to give a much-deserved shout-out to Copious Love’s most un-sung heroine, Vivian the Great. She is my little black Nissan Sentra, a sassy champion among cars and our trusty Copious Love Mobile. She has chauffeured us to and fro, to every single event/rehearsal/meeting/show/load-in/strike—and now retreats. Viv, we love you! Thank you for your smooth ride and your bumpin’ bass, you have kept us mobile and on time for years. If it weren’t for you, we wouldn’t be where we are today!

So, the Retreat! Every year the three Copious Founders, Lacy Tony and I (Chelsea), take a long weekend to reflect on the year past, and plan for the future. We pack only essentials, get back to nature, and let our brains storm with creativity as we escape the city we love so dearly. Separation does make the heart grow fonder. This practice of getting out into the unknown with only a map and a plan has proven to be integral in the success of our company.

Last year we ventured to Leavenworth, we camped, floated down the river, read Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass around a campfire, wrote songs and scenes, and figured out how each of us fit into the puzzle that is Copious Love. During that trip we worked out a lot more than we thought we had and got a lot more done than we expected! Upon heading home we knew that Retreating would be mandatory. Creativity just happens more naturally when there is adventure and campfires involved. Also, traveling is the best and most effective team building exercise there is.
The plan was simple; drive to the Redwoods, hike through the trees, drive down the Avenue of the Giants and come home. We drove almost all day on Friday and ended up getting most of our “work” out of the way in the car; Artsgiving, the fundraiser, Kickstarter, the shows, upcoming seasons, EVERYTHING. We took notes, we produced plans for each show, did some major conceptualizing and we were incredibly productive. The revelations and inspiration were welcome to begin the second we ventured into those magical trees.

On Saturday morning while Tony waited for Lacy and I to wake up he started a fire and wrote this poem:

“Sitting With A Grin”

Early waker, fire starter,
Maker of too-strong coffee.
I can remember when
There was no light in the fog.
But I have watched the sun enter this forest;
Angling overhead.
A fly came to stalk me,
But I scared it away with my shadow.
I saw the jays wake up, and the chipmunk.
The sounds of life coming in
Over the steady brook.
Attempting an infinite half-life on a single piece of firewood.
Wide-eyed, I try and find
The limits of my periphery.
Waiting is such a beautiful thing…
It puts you where you need to be
For everything to find you.
Postulator, conjurer, singer of songs.
I can’t wait to ring melodies with this place,
And yet I know that if I am silent
It will tune me in.

That day as we stepped into the forest on “Revelation Trail” (no joke), we were flooded with several key revelations about the set for Cedar & The Redwoods. I can’t give anything away, but this set is going knock you out. Art just comes to you amongst those ancient trees; there is something in the air that wakes up the imagery nerve in your brain. The Redwoods look so very simple at first, so bare. Then you get really close to them and you realize that it’s a front. They are complex and alive, teeming with detail and personality and texture. It is remarkable how many different colors are woven into their bark alone. I wanted to curl up beneath a tree and look up into its stained glass leaves for hours.

The trail we chose to hike was about four miles and we chose it because it ended up at the beach. It took us up, around the forest floor, close to the intricate tree trunks, and then opened up into the groves along the river. Enthralled, we barely noticed as it took us down, way down into the bushes. We were completely enveloped, walking single file along the dim trail flanked with ferns and foliage. It was a bizarre and almost overwhelming change, especially since we could hear the ocean and we were probably two miles away from the beach. Suddenly it was like we could hear the trees breathing, a slow steady pulse. Then we realized that we could no longer hear any birds or wildlife at all. Ironically that’s when we ran into the Elk. We were staying in Elk Prairie after all. To be fair we were warned, not ten minutes before, about him being on the trail. We walked onward, rounded a corner and bam! There he was. We decided to be safe and turn straight back and not to try to go around him. It was getting dark and the fog was starting to roll in. The forest began to look so much different, the trees more looming and less luminous. The burn marks looked deeper and more menacing. I have to admit that my fear was very real as we walked back. I couldn’t have asked for better Cedar research. It is incredibly eerie to be in nature and to not hear it happening around you. Once we couldn’t hear the rumble of the ocean anymore, all we could hear was our own breath. The forest floor is so cushioned by pine needles and loose earth that you can’t even hear your own footfall. Over time, the silence starts to create a very odd high frequency in your ears. We had to start making our own noise to combat it. Luckily, if we do one thing well it is create noise. Then slowly the sound of insects and birds started to return and finally we felt safe to stop and have lunch. It was one of the best hikes of my life; if adventure does one thing it brings you closer to your fellow adventurers. Trust building exercise? Passed with flying colors!

As we sat around the campfire we talked of many things, we vented, we mused and we bonded. I think that’s honestly the part of the retreat I loved the most. Sometimes best friends just need to sit around a campfire and drink a bottle of wine. And sometimes the best thing in the world is eating cookies and interviewing each other in the fashion of James Lipton. We may or may not have some campfire confessional video footage; it may or may not be usable. See above-mentioned wine…

Sunday we ventured off to drive down the Avenue of the Giants. Tony handed me the camera and he took the wheel. It’s kind of hard to get bad shots with that kind of scenery, I hope that we did it justice but it’s just something you have to see and experience for yourself. Time seems to just disappear and you don’t realize how long you have been driving. Probably because you are completely awe struck by the mammoth trees. It’s one of the most interesting feelings to feel smaller than small. All I wrote during the trip with the Giants was this: “Why can’t humans learn to live as long as these trees? Learn to develop a hard outer shell; like a beautiful woven bark. Still able to breathe but able to stand up to and even thrive upon fire and destruction.”

Sadly, while we were on the road we saw more logging trucks than we could keep track of, it was depressing to see these fallen giants when we saw how trees can thrive without us getting in the way.

This retreat brought us back to our roots, reminded us why we do what we do and why we love each other so damn much. It also inspired a lot of natural progressions in our business and our shows, I couldn’t be happier with all the research we got done in The Redwoods. It should go without saying that we are teeming with overly inspired revelations to pour into a stellar new season, we got what we came for and then some. Our Season 2 “Life, Death, & Family” is our way of reaching out and showing our audience that we can do more than shock you with shadowy sex scenes and edgy plays about drugs and harsh language. Tony brought a lot of inspirational ideas to the campfire confessionals about tactics, timing and anticipation. One of the big bullet points was this, bring your audiences in with something entirely different, shock them and make them want more, thanks Season 1! We did that for sure! Then give them honest relatable material that can unite people, well my Copious Lovelies that would be Season 2. It’s fantastic that this theme came so completely natural. We have been through a lot this past couple years and it seemed only appropriate to share and heal in the only way we know how. We like to call it Copious Love Group Therapy and we do hope you will join us.

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