350 years of music, food & the truth that you don’t have to go it alone

On this date, March 1, in 1670, Maria Giovanna Bonomo took her last breath.

The inspiration for The Feast of Jovi Bono, MGB left us truths that endure and fire that has not yet burned out.

When MGB played the violin inside the condo her father bought her inside of a convent in Asiago, Italy, the sound was so compelling, the songs so soulful, crowds would gather outside her window to listen.

It was a time when it took so few things to be wealthy: a fine home, enough food in the larder, crops and livestock, a wagon or two, a bit of gold. There was poverty, a world full of people who had not even a crust of bread. MGB used her rich-girl privilege to collect donations of fine clothing and ample food and gave them to poor people — so much so that the convent worried about what the largesse might cost them.

MGB wasn’t worried.

The more she gave, the more the convent gave, the more they had. Were they early purveyors of the law of attraction?

MGB lived out a love story with the world around her.

Much is made of the visions and ecstasies she said she had. While those visions undoubtedly inspired her generosity, when I sought to tell her story for the 21st century, I wasn’t as interested in that as I was in the belief she had in the cycle of the universe, the sense that all things are temporal and it’s safe to give with abandon.

It’s a story about resilience. On this March 1, I remember not only the crafting of the story, but all the people who have made it their story — who have performed it in New York, Boston and Estherville, who took a risk of moving beyond themselves to tell a story of lack and abundance, of pain and love, of humor and hip hop, of speaking the truth, and of a snarky chef-narrator who whips it into a miraculous sauté.

I also think of situations going on right now. Whether you’re short $25 or $25 million, all things are worthy of hope. Nothing is impossible. Don’t stop believing, to be sure, but continue moving in the direction of what you desire for your contribution to the world, and create something new from the rubble and ash.

Here is a video about The Feast of Jovi Bono with its original cast. https://youtu.be/hemi2og2Nf0

The fire 2020

This site has existed for six and a half years. 

In May, 2013 I had a vision, but I hadn’t had a work on stage since college. 

Before 2014, The Feast of Jovi Bono (TFOJB) had a premiere on 42nd Street, NYC. 

I’m not showing up on New Year’s Day to catalogue Fierce Good Causes’ accomplishments, thought the last three years have been extraordinary. Each win came with pain and disappointment. We don’t have money, though we’ve had some great donors and supporters. We don’t have fame. 

We have a lot of stories not yet told, because here at Fierce Good Causes, we don’t move quickly. Most of the time the writing is a great effort. A flare will go up with inspiration that will make a scene, a scrap of dialogue take up a lighted trail — for a while. Sometimes, sitting in my home office here in Estherville, Iowa, I start jumping around with what I think is a burst of creative genius, only to realize the next day it’s not going to work at all. 

All these concepts of a beginning en media res, of rising and falling action, of concise or artistic or narrative stage directions, of scene breaks and structure — they’re all considerations, but I’m here to tell you they’re not story. Story is making the worst thought you’ve ever had into a conversation between mother and son, making the heartbreak you’ve buried for decades into an ingredient that may start with a sunset over Red Rocks in Colorado and end with staring at the wreckage of a collision on the winding mountain road and having all of it — the rocks, the mountains, the snow, the wind become part of you. And that might look like a dance or a love parade of everyone affected by the collision wandering into the space of mourning or destruction.

It might be tragic or sexy or enraging or romantic or funny. The real craft is exploring that, and exploring what live humans can do with the words to bring the experience of that story. 

There’s a place for learning rising and falling action and allusion and allegory and also alliteration. For simile and metaphor. I sense, having been writing stories since before I could really write, that the best place to learn all of this is from reading books or experiencing the plays and films that are somewhat like yours. Find theatrical, cinematic, and literary kindred spirits, then go out and climb a hill and go to a party and travel and have sex and talk to strangers and ride public transportation and love and suffer and sing or play an instrument. Go look at art, go study a tree — not to describe it on paper, but to embrace it with your soul.

Believe in something.

Take action on what you believe.

Conquer your demons, or at least put up an epic fight so they retreat to the caves, because you need your mind and your love and your pain to really tell stories.

It’s scary to embrace that a safe, cozy life seems to be incompatible with creating. 

We do mindfulness here. We meditate here. We believe Tom Chi when he says, “Worry is your mind deciding to suck.” We believe Tom Chi when he describes rapid prototyping. “Doing is the greatest form of thinking.” We laugh a lot. We love fully. What we strive for is to be love. We design a way for our audience, cast and crew to do something about the issues we deal with in the shows. We welcome ideas.

I take sometimes long breaks from setting words to a page to go live something. To launch this year, I’m doing something risky, exhausting, something in which I’m part of a team that has a short but overwhelming and intensive fight for. It’s kind of sudden death — if any member of the team is not cutting it, they’re cut. I could be fired by the time you read this, though I’m building a mini-team and doing my best. If this happens, some of the schisms in our nation and world will start to heal right then, and if the momentum continues, not just hopeey changeey wishes will happen, but the nation will return to its people. My time doesn’t matter. My preferences don’t matter. The mission matters. It’s scary and enraging and risky and exhausting. But so, so worth it. It has caused me to believe maybe the story is not in being paid a little in my other life to record the facts, but in diving into causes and activism full force.

For the next 33 days from Jan. 1, I’m all in. I’ll emerge a creator with more strength and raw energy and take the next risk for the fire that’s within and all around, the purpose that’s more confusing and more clear all the time, the vocation I wished for at a time I had no idea how much sacrifice that required, the transformation that’s being built in ways we haven’t imagined.

Thank you for hanging out at Fierce Good Causes in 2020. You’re part of our story.

Enjoy some of the best life-capture photography, also by playwright/activist Ash Sanborn. 

The earthly energy of story

I couldn’t finish a play.

They say writer’s block is only real insofar as you don’t push through to overcome it.

You overcome it by writing — anything.

I promised to write a gay marriage play in the summer of 2017 and here we are at the end of 2019 and it’s not finished.

But now I have a path to finishing it, because I wrote a short story called Pulse.

If you can’t write — write anything! A story, a poem, a commercial, a song, a list.

Consider it a workout for the mental muscle that draws up the deepest of energies, those that allow for creation.

Never stop creating. You may identify as a certain type of creator, but if that’s the case, expand your worldview.

Songs of discovery

The first ever Mental Health Con yielded some outstanding dreams and ideas, which we will present in upcoming blogs.

Mental Health Con was the local community project that sprang from Maximalista #MentalHealthPlay. Usually the community project comes after the show — audience, cast and crew dive in to an issue the show’s characters grapple with onstage.

It hasn’t yet been the right time to present #MentalHealthPlay in Estherville or Iowa. There are delicate and problematic issues. That doesn’t mean it will never happen.

It seemed like the right time to share the song from #MentalHealthPlay that went up over Labor Day weekend 2018 at Hudson Guild Theatre in Chelsea, NYC, as part of NY Summerfest. Many thanks to the very talented Victor Vauban Junior for the video. Lyrics mine. Composer: Cason Day. Performed by Megan Grace Martinez and Sarah Victoria.

Mental Health Con features intro to ketamine infusion

Fierce Good Causes founded and launched Mental Health Con Sept. 27-29 in Estherville, Iowa. Fierce Good Causes was thrilled to have as a major sponsor Midwest Ketafusion in Iowa City, Iowa. A practitioner from the ketamine infusion clinic joined the conference by speakerphone Saturday afternoon. 

Screen Shot 2019-10-05 at 10.19.54 AM

In any given year, some 16 million Americans experience major depression. Because it tends to manifest in the prime of life of an individual, the effects can be devastating, resulting in destroyed careers and relationships and finances. Not surprisingly, depression is the leading cause of disability, worldwide.

In addition – directly and indirectly –  depression may be complicit in many forms of physical illnesses and conditions, including heart disease, addictions, and obesity and diabetes. Tragically, too many of those suffering from depression fall victim to suicide.

The main medical treatment for major depression is antidepressant medication. These medications have been a godsend to many, but do not work for everyone. Typically, there are side effects to contend with, and it takes weeks for the therapeutic action to kick in. Relapses are common.

Several years ago, the NIMH (National Institutes of Mental Health) announced news of promising results for treating depression with a different type of drug, called ketamine. Ketamine has been in clinical use since the 1960s as a battlefield and operating room anesthetic. Traditionally, it has been administered intravenously. A newer form is now available as a nasal spray.

As opposed to antidepressants, which work on the serotonin and related systems in the brain, ketamine is believed to act on the glutamate system. Glutamate is a neurotransmitter involved in learning and memory and mood.

Recently, a number of ketamine-infusion clinics have appeared in the US, offering treatment for treatment-resistant depression. This includes Midwest Ketafusion, which has been operating in the Iowa City, Iowa area for approximately the last year and a half. Recently, at Mental Health Con held in Estherville on September 27-29, Charlie Hong, one of the ARNP and nurse anesthetist partners of Midwest Ketafusion, talked to conference organizers and attendees via speaker phone. In a 30-minute conversation, he related to his audience what they can expect from ketamine-infusion treatment, and what the process involves.

Hong said the clinic has patients from around the Midwest and across the U.S. as the use of ketamine infusion for mental illnesses and neurological disorders has not yet proliferated in every region of the United States.

Hong said he became interested in ketamine infusion after witnessing the debilitating effects and eventual suicide of a friend with bipolar disorder.

Hong stressed that ketamine-infusion treatment is used for treatment-resistant depression. This typically involves patients failing to respond to at least two different antidepressant medications. According to Hong, three in four of these difficult-to-treat patients respond to ketamine infusion, typically in the first course of treatment.

Midwest Ketafusion also offers the 40-minute infusions for patients with anxiety, bipolar disorder, PTSD and obsessive-compulsive disorder.

The ketamine dose is much lower than that used for surgical anesthesia. At these doses, according to Hong, side effects are not common. For mood disorders and other mental illness, the infusion takes about 40 minutes. For chronic pain stemming from neurological disorders such as migraines and chronic fatigue syndrome, the infusions take up to four hours.

Three to six infusions spaced out over several days comprise the first course of treatment. Prior to treatment, patients are screened for depression, then monitored throughout their treatments. Several follow-up treatments are spaced out over the weeks and months.

It is mandatory that patients have someone to drive them home from the clinic. Because people may have to travel long distances for a course of treatment spanning more than one day (typically over a long weekend), staying at a local hotel is advisable.

Hong advises that patients considering ketamine-infusion treatment first consult their medical doctor or psychiatrist, and also consent to release their medical records to the clinic.

There is another type of ketamine treatment involving a nasal spray. Hong advises that since ketamine infusion involves the drug going directly into the blood, dosing is far more precise.

Ketamine-infusion treatment is not covered by medical insurance. Hong said, “Treating the patient is our primary concern. Let’s get you treated and we can worry about the money later.” Hong and his business partner Michael McGowan work in local operating rooms and run the clinic on their days off.

Midwest Ketafusion can be contacted at 319-210-5096. For more information, see the clinic’s website at Midwest Ketafusion


On a cautionary note, which we would present as standard for any new form of treatment, ketamine infusion for depression and other mental illness is relatively new. More studies need to be made to establish an airtight case for the treatment and to fine-tune treatment protocols. Having said that, there is a huge unmet need for effective treatments for depression. For a good many patients, antidepressants simply do not do the job. In this regard – whether or not you decide ketamine infusion is right for you, it is worthy of your consideration.


In my other life, as a journalist, I’m mired in that awful smell outside of our town, the floodwaters, and the upcoming things to which we’re looking forward. How I wish I could have been at a music festival called Rhythm on the River, but issues got in the way. Similar issues will likely deliver a disappointment next weekend, too, and next Saturday I really need something fun to do, to be around people. But, such is life.

Have you ever felt like you were done, just tired, wanted to go home (only to no home that exists now if it ever did), to make arrangements in case you’re not there to finish what you started, to disappear? That’s me now, and it’s not a good time to be in this place.

We need more assets and resources from somewhere. I’m even thinking of visiting some business people and entrepreneurs I know to figure out how to generate some.

There is good news: Times Square Chronicles did a profile of our work, our upcoming performances of Maximalista (#MentalHealthPlay). Read about it here.

The cast and crew are so excited about their work on this show, and that’s what makes the stressors worth it. They’re exceeding director Cammerron Baits’ expectations, and it’s going to be a glorious performance run. I believe that, even as I feel the unmet needs of the show.

We must ramp up the production side. I’m so happy we gave ourselves generous time in pre-production, but now we’re in the mix and have a big need to make it happen.

City of Love

I was in New York City at the finish of May and start of June for a journalism fellowship at Columbia University Journalism School. I’ve been home a week, and I still can’t begin to describe how amazing it was.

After the fellowship closed Saturday afternoon, June 2, I put my artist hat back on. I met up with director and original cast members of Maximalista (#MentalHealthPlay) and I happened upon Bryant Park, where they were setting up for a musical performance.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Scattered across the grass were music lovers also loving one another. I captured those images in the still-bright sunlight of early evening. My own soul surged with love, and a tinge of loneliness as I wished I could have a companion for these moments.

So much of artistry, even in a collaborative art like theater, is done in solitude. I trade a social life for the adventure of telling everyone’s story on the pages of the newspaper, the bandwidth of the web page, the blogosphere here, and on the screen and stage.

When I’m working, I trade affection and companionship for the opportunities to be in New York, in Boston, and I hope soon in other places to have my artistry come to life on stage.

Usually it’s a quite fair trade and I feel there’s not much I’ve missed.

Sometimes, though, I would trade an opportunity for a hug, a kiss, a word of encouragement, or just the companionship that comes with seeing the same thing at the same time, together.

Enough of that. Time moves and so does the pace of performance. Maximalista is in rehearsals. Today, director Cammerron Baits did a film shoot of flashbacks and mind obsessions, which will play on projections during the show.

I’ve seen some stills, and while I was hesitant at first, I believe it will be phenomenal.

You can spread love and joy in your city, right where you are.

NY Summerfest – 1,000 supporters/$10

One thousand.

That’s the number of supporters we seek to make Maximalista at NY Summerfest happen.

Watch the video:

Why do we need upwards of $10,000?Because we want to pay the human beings who make this possible a living wage for their 60 or more hours of rehearsal and the immense prep time it will take to make this the amazing experience we know it can be.

Because this may be The Big One and lead to a full-length, full run in New York City.

Because we want to partner with the best people on the ground innovating new ways to deal with people who have mental illness.

Because this is a model case for projects all over the nation and perhaps beyond.

Because so many hours and so much love has already gone into this show.

Because we’re ready to transform the world.

#MentalHealthPlay goes to NY Summerfest!

mentalhealthplayWe’re in!

The amazing news: #MentalHealthPlay is part of NYSummerfest to be performed Labor Day weekend, Sept. 1 at 1 p.m. and Sept. 2 at 6 p.m. in the beautiful Hudson Guild Theater, at 441 W. 26 St.(between 9th and 10th Avenues).

I keep picturing it in a show tent with bleachers or something, and then I pinch myself to remember it’s in a fantastic theater and this is really happening.

The challenge: Festival rules say we have to show it with a whole new cast after its run at Manhattan Rep Theatre in September-October, 2017.

Rehearsing a new cast for 60 hours, paying actors, directors and crew for their deep presence, acquiring props, some costumes, comp tickets for industry pros at $23/each, and developing the social justice project — even a minimalist budget feels pressured.

Can you feel the pulse of this show making a second, larger burst onto the scene? Will you be part of delivering this project from idea to experience?

Cammerron Baits (the director) and I believe with our souls in this project. We invested blood, sweat and tears into the original project. Time was a big crunch for the Manhattan Rep run (but Huffington Post and Broadway World gave it big love). The one-act needs more audience, more love, more space and time and a new cast will give it a fresh look and attract industry pros.

We’re looking for one love. The person who can and will invest in it, take a risk for this show to have a full length, full run in NYC followed by a tour. We’ll bring back some of the original #MaxFam and some of our second cast who invest in it.

We’re looking for a community to each invest what you can to make it happen. Watch for a crowd-funding effort to cover the initial costs of rehearsal space and related expenses, then a big push over the summer to do it all.

Bottom line: $5,000 bare bones. Anything above that allows us to better invest in the human beings who are devoting time, talent, heart, voice, motion, emotion, and soul.

If you’re an actor in the NYC area, I hope you will submit your stuff for this. Send headshot and resume to cammerronb@gmail.com.

Jed Ryan, writing for the Huffington Post, picked up the unique visual elements and individual performances as well as the whole.

Take a dive with us. Be part of this adventure.


Going to Barbados for “On the Block”

April 26, I will be in Barbados as part of a week-long visit. I aspire to photograph the unique natural world of the island, to get to talk to locals.

However, the pinnacle of the trip happens on the last full day: seeing students from Barbados Community College participate in the first public production of “On the Block” by Glenville Lovell. 

Screen Shot 2018-03-23 at 6.01.40 PMLovell is perhaps the most noted writer/creator from Barbados. A playwright, dancer and novelist, Lovell grew up in a chattel house. These structures were built “on the block” and the entirety of the house, including the blocks, could be picked up and moved as landlord-tenant relationships changed or employers migrated their sugar cane operations.

I’ve been assigned a photo-essay about the production by a U.S. theater publication and seek more outlets for the documentary of this beautiful experience.

“On the Block” was the winner of the Frank Collymore Endowment Award in 2010, but has yet to be performed in public.

It has already been a beautiful experience communicating with David and Rosemary of The Gap Theatre in Barbados.

The play happens at the Daphne Joseph Hackett Theatre in Queen’s Park, Bridgetown, which was closed for 12 years until its reopening in 2017.

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