Still Saying “Yes, And” by Adam Roberts with an appearance by David Bendezu

The feedback - from my workshop peers, the seasoned Rehabilitation Through the Arts (RTA) members, and outside volunteer - was very, very positive.I had just finished performing Becker’s monologue from August Wilson’s Jitney. John, an RTA member of several years, said, “I liked how you annunciated each word, emphasizing important syllables. Great diction.”

Since Alison’s passing in October, I’ve experienced many instances of stillness with her, but on that night I saw her watching me, and felt her effervescence more clearly than ever before. I began to tear up and considered speaking about her influence. At precisely that moment, the directors suggested I read the lines as a pirate standing on the deck in heaving seas, addressing a mutinous crew (alas, gone are the days of Bruce’s suggestions of, say, trying the lines through the lens of a seducing psychopath). Arrr, my Captain Hook impression made the scallywags cheer.

This was a Friday night in Fishkill CF, my fourth workshop at RTA’s six-workshop onboarding process, and I was completely at ease with performing and clowning and upping the emotional because of my tenure with a certain group that was doing its thing a couple hundred miles northwest in Auburn CF’s school. It was August 9th, and two months prior, I enjoyed my last night with PPTG, one of the best nights of my life, in which I was “flamed” by my loved ones for a proper goodbye.

After spending five years with PPTG, RTA feels like Thanksgiving at a new friend’s home, where similar dishes are served, but with different garnishes. We play Zip, Zap, Zop, but differently; we energize with 7,6,5,4,.., though starting with 1,2,3,4,…; there’s the human knot but with simultaneous competing teams (actually, knot bad… sorry).

RTA has been helping people become their best self for twenty-five years and is now in five prisons (hopefully Marty Heidgen gets his happy ass into RTA Woodbourne). There is a lot of carry over between RTA and PPTG: self-awareness and growth, exposure to different frames of reference through genuine sharing, and the power of a positive community. In the past, I might have fixated childishly on the ways RTA is different from PPTG, but PPTG helped me become more growth-minded, focused instead on the positive aspects of every situation. I can never replace my PPTG family, but I will make myself at home in numerous creative spaces, like RTA, continuing to know and grow into myself.

There is, however, a moment each night in RTA when I think: PPTG doesn’t have this. By “this,” I mean the four dogs - two black labs, two yellow - that add a fun improv element of their own. For instance, one hasn’t truly enjoyed Zip, Zap, Zop until standing in a circle Zopping while four adorable pups tear ass back and forth, roughhousing, sliding and skidding on the shiny floor, tumbling between our legs before zipping back, en masse, to the other end of the room.

And on that note, here comes David, who’s busy, busy, busy training his pup.


I Guess a Guest Appearance by David Bendezu

Hey everybody! I miss you all so much. I have never done a guest appearance before, thus I brought my dog Zane with me. When I first arrived here at Fishkill CF, I too felt like how Adam feels today, in that everythng new is not the same as it once was. I thought… RTA is not PPTG and the puppy staff are nothing like my PPTG family. Selfishly, I wanted everything to be like how it once was. I wanted the world, my world, to be in uniform. There were no genuine hugs from Alison (I miss her so much, too) and there was no Bruce anymore to keep me in check.

For the first time in quite a while, I felt alone. Even through I had more “freedom” in Fishkill, I felt like I was still in a six-by-eight sage. In the beginning, I struggled a bit internally. Though over time, I began to remember my PPTG family and teachings I learned throughout the years. I began to think of what people like Mike, Shane, Dee, and others had to go through in order to create such a wonderful space as PPTG. I began to think of all the creative energy it took to assemble all the amazing pieces we performed. I began to appreciate what I had versus what I did not have.

How many people can say “I got to hang out with world-class actors, directors, professors, students, and humans”? How many? I wish I could for one night share my PPTG experience with everyone I love so that they too could leave feeling hopeful and loved. I with I could do that, but I now know that life doesn’t always work or plan out the way you want it to. I’ve learned to grow with the punches, and I’ve also learned that, “You can take me out of PPTG< but you can’t take PPTG out of me.” And ever since I figured that out, I take y’all everywhere I go, except where the dogs go poop.

Love y’all.