Shelley Stolaroff Segal
Shelley is a playwright, composer, and essayist living in Greensboro, NC. As part of the body project, she is creating a new piece for piano inspired by the humor PHLEGM.
When Gabby Sinclair offered to draw a Body Project humor for me last November because I was out of town I was relieved and grateful. I should’ve known better. When I returned and eagerly checked my assignment I discovered I was Phlegm. Really? That snot funny, I thought. I read the description and tried to determine how I would compose music to a temperament so unlike mine. Phlegmatic: Apathetic and Indecisive. Also, Relaxed, Peaceful, and Quiet. My friends would snicker. It didn’t help that I kept picturing that slimy green mucus thug on the Mucinex commercials. Shit, I thought, why couldn’t I have drawn something hot and angry like Yellow Bile?
But with time and consideration I have come to appreciate Phlegm, the watery rock star of the vital fluids. “The Four Humors are the metabolic agents of the Four Elements in the human body. The right balance and purity of them is essential to maintaining health.” I read about Hippocrates, who not only understood the geography of the body, he believed that each humor corresponded with one of the four traditional--and I believe--modern temperaments. The truth is, all humors are special and beautiful, and part of a fine liquid mosaic. Each contributes to one’s sense of balance, physically and emotionally. Phlegm is beautiful and necessary.
That doesn’t mean it’s easy to work with. While sitting on the piano trying to compose, my fingers start to underperform. To feel sluggish. My brain, which is usually wound up as tight as a tick, begins to relax. So do my muscles. I just feel like hunkering down inside one of those soft polyester blankets and sipping cocoa.
I studied my humor further. (After I’d had coffee.) I was still reticent about my assignment because I typically come up short in the mellow department. I started reasoning. Well, phlegm is associated with water. I’m a Taurus, which is an earth sign, and water nourishes the earth. Voila. It all made sense. (Especially when I noticed the Phlegm drives are comfort and food.) However, my friends would probably agree that I’m more closely aligned with hot air. (Choleric and Sanguine.)
I kept reading and looking at medieval woodblocks. I was heartened to see that my phlegm organ was the brain and my age was maturity. (No, really.) But I was embarrassed when I read the quote, and I quote, “The young warrior’s choler gave him courage but phlegm produced cowards.” Oh dear.
Well, my music will not be cowardly. It will be bold, (somewhat) and focused, and well, you’ll just have to hear it and judge for yourself. Please be sanguine with your criticism. I’m very temperamental in real life.
Shelley Stolaroff Segal is a playwright, performer, and essayist living in Greensboro, NC. My Son, her play about autism and race premiered in NYC, and was presented at TEDx East. Other production credits include Bliss, a play about marriage, and Outing Your Autistic Child, which she both scored and choreographed. Segal’s international and regional stage credits include performances at the Bloomsbury Theatre in London, the Classic Stage Company in NYC, the North Coast Repertory Company in San Diego, and the Main Street Theater in Houston. Non-fiction credits include The Washington Post, Blunt Moms, and Autism/Asperger’s Digest. Anthology credits include Voices from the Spectrum, Chicken Soup for the Soul, From Sac Literary Journal, and Multiples Illuminated. Her instrumental music has been used in short films and original stage productions, and was published in conjunction with the Miles Davis Jazz Orchestra in Greensboro. Segal received her theater training at The Drama Studio London and the Classic Stage Company in New York.