Gregarious Expressions

by Alicia Grega



dramatist. instructor. designer. director. artist. poet. mother. feminist. aspiring Buddhist and mediocre yogi. Living, working, creating, and learning the hard way in the Electric City.

What’s on my white board?

Nothing much. Inspirations and notes. I like to keep it clean, between.

Sister Corita Kent’s rules and Bertolt Brecht, Berlin 1931. Black Scranton Steamtown Magnet. Giving blood is the least I can do to give back; to justify my footprint, my consumption of resources. Always give back. I’m rooting for you Wanda. Nod to Ginsberg’s HOWL on the City Lights Bumper sticker I’m considering putting on the car. That’s an Allen Ginsberg quote scribbled at the top of the board. The Howlmobile does not have a name. Allen into Al; Big Al after my grandfather. Once upon a time, I was Little Al. The Proofreader’s Marks remind me of the Hobo Code.

Post-its to remind me what my brain was thinking. Or should think more about in the future. “Coney Island of the Mind,” Ferlinghetti. “Peter Pan Goes Wrong panto.” Show me why your vision will work (writing workshop). Building Sandcastles. Show within a show. LESSON: Dialogue & time period. Solo performance devising workshop (Fringe?) LC ART 105 OA syllabus + updated content due 5/22 – GOAL 5/15. Most important dates and appointments are written in the planner. Or on the mini board on my desktop.

Above that: the sweetest Christmas correspondence from my daughter in L.A. Bonjour, Miranda!

“The show is over. The audience get up to leave their seats. Time to collect their coats and go home. They turn around – no more coats and no more home.” A postcard from the Carnegie Museum of Art in Pittsburgh – Untitled (1991) by Christopher Wool.

nostalgia years old

Simply saying I turned 51 last week does not convey the heft of these years I’ve accumulated.

I am officially old enough to sit around and talk about the old days.

It was kind of Lawrence to have me as a guest on his revived public access program “Stories, Wisdom & Recipes.”

Find it on Electric City Television via ECTV.Network or watch via YouTube, below.

peace & blessings -ag

His Name is Sprout

Leroy Sprout.

The first name was chosen by a third grader at Drums Elementry last week when we could remember the name I gave my turtle puppet last year.

This morning one of last year’s students remembered.

“Your turtle’s name is Sprout,” she quietly informed. It must have come to her after our first session last week and she’d been waiting days until this morning to see me again so she could reveal it.

Of course! His name is Sprout.

I meant to look it up but it was an unusually busy week.

Sprout was named last year or maybe the previous fall when the students (then in second grade) and I began our study of storytelling by using superhero stories from comic books, tv, and movies as examples of how stories work.

It’s an especially fitting name now that we’ll be creating four new stories in which each of the student’s characters is inspired by the function different parts of speech play in a sentence. You know, Nouns are matter-of-fact, they know the names of things. They are good at trivia. Adjectives are sensitive with highly-attuned senses. They give vivid descriptions. Verbs are active and adverbs tell them how to act. Conjunctions bring people together or provide alternatives. They are natural mediators. Pronouns are shape-shifters, adapting and filling in for others as needed.

The topic of the plays will have something to do with plants, so Sprout will have to make an appearance. Perhaps he can cameo as a deus ex machina, of sorts. A mystical character that can step in like a higher power and intervene if the story gets stuck. I delight knowing there will be a moment in the future I get to teach them what a deus ex machina is and how it functions in a story.

At the rate they are going, they may not need an intervention. I almost cried as they showed how well they had absorbed the lessons of the previous year.

Within minutes, they named their characters, gave them traits based on the parts of speech as described to them, and began drawing pictures to show what they look like. One student’s character is a cactus and looks suitably spiny. Another student ran over to tell me that he was going to be the villain in their story. “Great! I told him. Your character can cause problems.”

I shared his announcement with the room.

“Your characters don’t need to be superheroes,” I told them, “but some of them will be heroes in that they are solving problems in the play. Other characters will be causing the problems.”

One group quickly selected the rainforest as the setting for their play. I told them to do research. Find out what the threats are to plants in the rainforest. “It’s people,” a student responded without hesitation.

The energy and enthusiasm of third grade is astonishing. I wish I could siphon some off the top and pump it into my morning college classes.

On the 50-minute drive home, listening to Annie Dillard’s The Writing Life, I bookmarked a passage from chapter five to write down when I got home.

“A well-known writer got collared by a university student who asked, ‘Do you think I could be a writer?’

‘Well, the writer said, I don’t know. Do you like sentences?’

The writer could see the student’s amazement.

‘Sentences? Do I like sentences? I am 20 years old and do I like sentences?’

If he had liked sentences, of course, he could begin, like a joyful painter I knew. I asked him how he came to be a painter, he said, ‘I like the smell of the paint.'”


Poetry Out Loud Airs April 6

Among my favorite volunteer gigs has been on the panel of judges for Poetry Out Louds’s regional competition at WVIA studios. Shot in January, the program will air this week on Thursday, April 7, in conjunction with National Poetry Month.

Memorizing and reciting poetry is an excellent exercise for the brain as well as ideal public speaking practice. Additionally, in reading poems, we are experiencing the rhetoric of poetry – the rhythms of the language as well as the vivid and creative word choices – which can inspire and inform the choice of more engaging language in our own writing and speech.

Tune in at 7 p.m. to see the program or find it archived online after the broadcast date.

Our regional winner went on to become runner-up at the state level – find out why!

Image of the preview of Poetry Out Loud Regional Competition 2023, WVIA.

IN PERSON Creative Writing Workshops

There’s still room to participate in this free workshop on Thursday! Call to register so we know to expect you. 🙂

Attend one or all – there will be a different creative writing project in each session! -ag

more Ferment art

There are probably other things I should be doing right now but this is what’s coming out.


(WordPress upload looks darker than the image in my photoshop window?)

WIP: The Ferment

Set in the frighteningly near future of 2040, The Ferment is an audio drama about a college student who gets caught up in an anti-fascist rebellion as the United States of America dissolves into disparate regional countries with closed borders and diminished freedoms.

Thanks to spring break, I found myself with the time to pull the project forward from its back burner and make significant progress on the characters and story details. It’s proving a timely outlet for my economic and political angst.

I imagined this project as a fictional podcast prequel to a feature screenplay set in one of the new “rehabilitation” camps (Comfort Stations or ComStats) where homeless “nomads” are incarcerated until they can potentially be reintegrated into society as productive consumers contributors. I still hope to get this screenplay written as well, but as the prequel will be much cheaper to produce, why not get it written first.

Due to an overloaded work schedule the past couple of years after grad school, I’ve hardly managed to produce more than a handful of poems even as several script projects are burning holes in my brain demanding attention. My work schedule continues to shift. I’ve been looking for summer work as I move into the second half of this semester teaching five classes as an adjunct at three different schools. I pray to continue making teaching sustainable but after six years of structuring part-time jobs around adjunct contracts, I’m starting to wonder if a full-time professor position is an impossible dream.

After leaving the newspaper in 2016 and then going back to school in 2017, I gave myself until age 50 to figure out how to manage the rest of my life. It’s a month before my 51st birthday and the future is less clear than it’s ever been. I’m overwhelmed with fear of poverty and exhaustion and chronic underemployment. The only thing I know for sure is that regardless of what forks lie ahead, I have to save time to work on my art. I love teaching and helping other people to find their voices and speak their truths, but I cannot allow the brutality of American capitalism to determine my worth. What’s the point of fighting to survive if my soul is lost in the process?

Collage art by Alicia Grega. March 9, 2023.

Hope for the Humanities?

With the recent media and artist attention to Open AI programs (e.g. ChatGPT and DALL-E) threatening to replace the human acts of creation we assumed for so long could not be automated, I’ve found myself stressing to students that their emotional experience of being alive in this ever-changing world may prove to be their most valuable asset.

I’ve been telling students for years that the unusual things about themselves they tried to hide in high school are extremely valuable in the adult quest to distinguish themselves. In the future, these quirks may be the way we survive.

In a Feb. 2, New York Times opinion piece, David Brooks expresses thoughts along this same line.

“If, say, you’re a college student preparing for life in an A.I. world, you need to ask yourself: Which classes will give me the skills that machines will not replicate, making me more distinctly human?”

-David Brooks, “In the Age of A.I., Major in Being Human

The human skills he cites include: a distinct personal voice, presentation skills, a childlike talent for creativity, unusual worldviews, empathy, and situational awareness. These are skills I’ve been teaching in my college courses for years and hope to keep teaching until I can’t work anymore. But will students getting a degree in order to be employable in specific career tracks recognize the elusive benefits of humanities courses?

Just last week I was speaking to a group of students that people used to want to get an education to expand their minds and world view in order to be better, more advanced human beings. The pressures to live comfortably in capitalist society have turned heads away from any study that does not promise financial profit. Artistic practice and expression, drama and poetry, and the energy of live connection have been so discredited by the system that equates value with money and success with the ability to make large sums of money that a comeback will take time.

Students don’t want to be glued to their phones and screens. They know they spend too much time connected to their devices but don’t know how else to act. They didn’t have an opportunity to get bored as children, to find surprising and creative ways to entertain themselves and pass the time while their parents’ attention was required elsewhere. They grew up with entertainment on demand and video games they could play in the car or grocery store cart. They didn’t have to make up games. Many weren’t allowed to go outside and explore the nooks and crannies of neighborhoods the way their parents and grandparents did.

Agostino Ramelli’s 1588 Le diverse et artificiose machine (Diverse and artificial machines) via

Most of my students hated online pandemic instruction and are genuinely relieved to be coming together with other students in the classroom. They don’t want to invest the time and energy of their youth into a field of study only to be replaced by machines. They have also grown up in educational systems that eliminated art programs and stressed math and science and rigidly conservative rules of language with little reward for individuality and expression. In the worst of cases, they haven’t been taught to think at all, let alone think critically.

I’ve watch students squirm with fear and anxiety when given creative freedom in assignments. Many want to be told exactly what to do with a guarantee that they will get a high score if they follow all the rules to a “T”.

The way things are now, I don’t see capitalism coming around to value people and humanity as much as it values property and profit. People have understandably adjusted their values in order to survive in our capitalist economy but do they know what they’ve given up in order to earn dollars and own things? I’d like to hope that people will choose humanity over technology but the trends of recent decades have shown only the wealthy and powerful will get to enjoy the benefits of natural beauty, whole and organic unprocessed foods, access to the arts, and homemade “artisan” goods. Only the bosses can afford to delegate time spent staring at screens to their subordinates while they travel and talk in person to other bosses. Only youth who can afford access to the arts and can work for years without making money are able to pursue the dream of fulfillment and satisfaction in creative life.

I’m only one of hundreds of thousands of aspiring artists whose wings were clipped by the economic realities of survival under American capitalism in the late 20th and early 21st centuries. Intelligence, talent, education, vision, hard work, discipline – even combined these are no longer enough to secure a stable career.

Revived interest in the humanities should be the result as society inches toward increased computer control of our lives, but unless we demand the poorest and least powerful among us be treated with the same dignity and respect shown to the rich and powerful, only the wealthy will be able to afford such luxurious use of their time.


how do you define success?

Received this inspiring thank you note from one of my UC screenwriting students weeks after the semester ended … a welcome affirmation that I’m exactly where I am supposed to be as the New Year begins.

There have been so many difficult days without thanks or immediate reward, when I could have given up and tried to find an easier way to survive, but I keep doing things the hard way, with faith that passion and authenticity matter and knowledge is the most potent power I can give to others. I don’t usually share thank you notes – it feels so braggy – but this one dropped just as I was reflecting at year’s end. I’m still a long way from figuring this life out but progress continues to be made.

Keep doing hard things in 2023! You are the only one who can determine what success looks like in your life. -ag

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