Dan Callaway Studio

for people who break into song in real life

Page 2 of 16

Add Beauty

We are theatre artists, and right now there is no theatre.

At the beginning of the pandemic, I watched a documentary called The Actor’s Apprenticeship about the repertory theatre companies in the UK and how they were a safe training ground for many master actors.

Near the end of the film, there was a shot inside a 3/4 thrust space, the seats empty, and I felt my stomach get all achy.

I felt longing, what every good breakup song is about–you don’t know what you had until it’s gone.

Like every theatre artist during this time, I asked myself what I could do in the absence of what I do.

Those days we went on drives.

We loaded up the boys, drove north toward the rolling pastures and hoped nobody pooped.

(Side note, we’d taught our older son to call the diaper genie Mordor. He’d say it in received pronunciation. Ready for the rep company, clearly.)

During one of these drives my brain was on the moon.

Melissa said, “You seem far away today.”

I agreed. I wanted to indicate my mental coordinates, but my mind was a pinball game amid a lot of arcade noise.

I’ve learned some good technologies to corral my brain and direct him in less stress-inducing directions, but this day my tewlz felt out of reach.

This day, as my older son said at the time: “need help.”

Sometimes we get stuck in there, and we need someone to throw us a rope.

Melissa encouraged me to start saying words attached to the images pinging through my headspace, and after much incoherence, I finally arrived at, “I want to add beauty to the world.”

There was a lot of noise surrounding this–ruckus related to achievement, perception, and shoulds. But that was a statement that felt like it came from a real and satisfying place in me.

Since then, it’s been a phrase I’ve returned to many times. What can I share with you that I think has some beauty about it?

And why beauty?

There’s so much dirt flying at us that I want to contribute something that feels like clear water on our faces.

Beauty tells me there’s purpose and design that’s smarter than I am.

And it sets off something vibratey in my guts that feels connected to you and bigger things.

When we look at something beautiful together, we can join in that.

That’s why the theatre is so special. A group of us gather in one space to share a story artfully told.

We witness a story in time together, and when that’s over, we all leave with our own imprint of what happened. There’s nothing like it. I can’t wait to do it again.

In the meantime, what’s beauty to you? Or what’s your equivalent? And how does it feel to share it?

Here’s a list of possibilities that come to mind:

  • asking the Target checkout ninja how they’re doing
  • giving someone full mask smize in public
  • making some box mac n cheese really well
  • washing dishes
  • planting a flower
  • looking at a leaf or grass blade for more than seven seconds and saying wow
  • telling someone you love them
  • taking someone a meal
  • writing a thank you card or a letter and putting a stamp on it
  • making your bed
  • laughing
  • writing a rude limerick

Here’s a flower by our front door. That color, right?

I’m inviting you to join me. Instant Artist: just add beauty.

Use-What-You-Got Picnic Salad

We had a family picnic last week, and I made this salad out of our end-of-week fridge:

For your own salad brain, these are things that dance well together: good dressing (many possibilities in the pantry), greens, some crunchy things, a protein (beans, meat, egg, etc), other textures (starches, soft things like avocado, sweet potato, goat cheese).

Here’s how this one worked out.


  • Dressing: lemon zest and juice, Dijon mustard, salt, maple syrup
  • kale
  • bell pepper
  • leftover chicken breast, brown rice, mushrooms
  • cherry tomatoes
  • sweet potato
  • Everything but the Bagel Seasoning

Start the dressing in the bottom of your bowl. You need an acid, an emulsifier, salt, and something sweet if you want that.

This is lemon zest, juice, Dijon mustard, salt, and a little maple syrup;

Then see what kind of greens you have. We had a big ole bag of untouched kale, so that’s what I grabbed. Put it in your dressing and squeeze those greens. Kale needs encouragement.

We had leftover chicken breast, brown rice, and shrooms, so I threw that on there. Leftover starches and proteins are great in sallets.

I added cherry tomato, an orange bell pepper, a leftover sweet potato, and Everything but the Bagel Seasoning from TJ’s.

And there you have picnic deliciousness. Don’t forget the forks.

Badass Prime Driver

You were kind to me when I was a frightened
Freshman gripping my backpack straps trying
To disappear into lockers. Your smile lightened
My textbook adolescent load. Lying
Ahead, you showed me, were possibilities such
As studying Mozart in places where other misfit
Toys could gather and make beauty–much
Aloneness relieved witnessing your musical grit.
Today, the Prime driver said, “Dan?”,
Removed his mask, and there was that smile
That made this scared kid feel like the man.
The symphony gig is on hold for a while.
In the meantime, you are being a badass
Making some bucks until you’re back with the brass.


Copenhagen made me want to buy
A pack of cigarettes, hold a cup
Of coffee and walk past palaces, flowers, and high-
Spired churches in a moody jacket sewn up
By smoke and caffeine vapor. I was a poor
Man’s Kierkegaard, existential
In museums and botanical gardens. Despite the lure
Of Duolingo’s proficiency promises, my credential
In Danish left me with the ability to say
“Sorry,” “thank you,” and “turtle.” Politely asking
My Nordic hosts, “Speak you English?” Would play
Out with perfunctory lingual multitasking.
It was beautiful, and people smiled when I tried.
And I reviewed the sensation of feeling outside.


I’m taking a songwriting class on the internet —
Ryan Tedder from One Republic teaches
You how to write and produce hits–no sweat,
Except there’re all these software knobs, and each is
More confounding than the other. Pro Tools,
It’s called, and the tools are clearly meant for pros.
Today I got my mic to follow the rules
And talk to the recording intelligence. God knows
When I will establish effective communication
With my keyboard. Typing “connecting midi
Piano mixer clueless aggravation”
Into google hasn’t helped. Pity.
This self-okay I feel being a beginner–
It’s new and nice, like I’m a fumbling winner.

This Bread Recipe Will Make You Feel Like a Competent Baker and Your House’ll Smell Great

This recipe is a riff on Alexandra’s Peasant Bread. Our friend Scotty Humphries brought us a fresh baked loaf of this stuff soon after our second son was born, and = life changed. She shared the recipe with me, and this is the way I like to do it.

Flour (4 cups) [I use 2 all purpose 2 whole wheat]
Salt (2 tsp) Go ahead and add a lil more if you want
Sugar (2 tsp)
Instant Yeast (2 1/4 tsp, pre-measured in the packet)
Lukewarm water (2 cups)

You don’t need a mixer for this. You can do it by hand in a bowl. I like using the mixer because it was my Grandma’s, and I like to let the dough hook do some kneading for this no-knead recipe.

Mix or sift the dry ingredients together then add your water and bring the dough together. Again here, I appreciate the work the dough hook does for me. I’ve done this in a bowl with a mixing spoon and bare hands as well.

Cover with a damp tea towel and set out in a warmish place for an hour and a half.

It’ll double in size.

Coat two pyrex bowls with butter, divide the dough in two, and place uncovered in the bowls. Preheat the oven to 425 and let them rise a little until the oven comes to temp.

Bake at 425 for 15 minutes, then reduce the oven temp to 375. Bake at 375 for 20 minutes.

Turn them out and let them cool. And you have delicious homemade wheat bread.

White American Male

We wonder why White American men
Are split-off cardboard forts with our tin can
Transistor strings severed. Then again,
How could it be otherwise? “Be a man.”
What images does that command drag out?
Eyes like a mirror lake reflecting back
The image of one coming for a drink?
Ears like a wool blanket you can unpack
From the kitbag–scratchy but cozier than you’d think?
Those aren’t the pictures that emerge for me.
The man we mean is one who dams the lake
And stuffs the fleece down on the feel debris
Collected for years. March, and don’t bellyache.
No wonder we can’t hear you when you cry.
Tears might move that water. We’d drown. We’d die.


When I stood on the escalator descending
To the Bakerloo Line platform, I studied
(As only someone brought up in the the befriending-
Required rural South could) the un-buddied
Faces ascending past posters of American B-list
Celebrities starring in the West End production
Of Chicago. My interest in a tight fist
on a briefcase or a brow furrow tripped a deduction
In my brain about where each person grew
Up or where they were going, whether they
We’re happy or not– The briefcase gripper I knew
Needed to quit his job and write a play.
Assigning a story to my fellow Undergrounder
Quelled the loneliness of this moving stairs expounder.

Thank You Accomplished

Thank you for breathing, for feet that feel the floor,
For the register I stub my toe on that sends
Warm air into the kitchen this morning. More
Than that, thank you for a brain that blends
Appreciation for a pink cotton t-shirt
With a grateful hum for the heat and taste in my old
Coffee mug. My cold toes assert
Their gratitude for thick socks rolled
Up and available in my bedroom drawer,
And the cluttered filing cabinet in my noggin
Reminds me my unachievable chore
List means job, and Apple remembers my login.
Above all, let me say thank you with eyes
Open to gifts I forgot to recognize.

« Older posts Newer posts »

© 2021 Dan Callaway Studio

Theme by Anders NorenUp ↑