Wednesday, March 14, 2018

Welcome to My High School LiveJournal

The cow as white as milk,
the cape as red as blood,
the hair as yellow as corn,
the slipper as pure as gold.

Saturday, March 10, 2018

Student Journals in the Library

"I will be an unsuccessful writer," he says. I respond, "All writers are unsuccessful most days." I flip to the next student's work.

1. Is this true?
2. Is it inspiring or depressing?
3. Should I avoid grading post-emotionally revising my own work?

(Answer Key: Probs. Depressing. YES.)

Friday, March 2, 2018

The Antelope Party at Theatre Wit

My cousin was a Brony (an adult male fan of the children's cartoon My Little Pony). He passed away on Christmas four years ago, reppin' MLP pride 'til the end. I knew it was a movement of some kind, so, being a culturally curious person, I watched the pilot. Maybe it was one of those Rocko's Modern Life types that had a dark satirical edge. But, no. It was what it was--fluffy, simple, and for children. But later that day, while on my bike, I thought about the last time I saw my cousin. He was very skinny and needed help walking, breathed heavily, had a lot of adages about "at least I got up today." At the time I was really into Mad Men, but it occurred to me if if I were in J's shoes, I too might prefer an enchanted forest of horses.

So when I saw an ad for this Brony play on the train I texted my cousins (J's surviving three sisters) and asked if they might be interested. They agreed, and we all met up Sunday (plus my sister) for the matinee at Theater Wit. I just absolutely loved this play. I will admit I have specific emotional bias (as alluded to above), but who doesn't to what becomes their favorite plays?

The set for Theater Wit's production was immediately inviting--a living room Brony'd out with rainbow curtains and toy ponies and lest we forget, a plate of strawberry frosted poptarts (which, if you have ever seen my thigh, you know mean a lot to me). Plus, every audience member got a teeny plastic pony! How adorable and perfect. "We're all in this weird club now." Meanwhile, that one bright room is surrounded by rust belt backdrop--a foreshadowing of how their utopia can't stay enclosed forever.

The play begins with a long monologue from Shawn, a scrawny white guy dressed in a pink horse costume, about how he used to struggle to find his self/masculinity (citing Mad Men, no less) and how once he joined the Pony club, he felt free to be himself. The other present members, also in their sparkles and tutus, nod, agree, and speak with enthusiasm as well. And then the first "huh" happens. A nervous woman confesses she thought this was a meet-up for 9/11 Truthers. She leaves. The group, clad in false hooves, call her "the crazy lady." Another Brony shows up concerned about the state of a mutual friend, who was grabbed by "Neighborhood Watch." And we learn about this town's interesting predicament with unidentified, black clad, trucker hat wearing, flashlight-wielding "helper" community vigilantes. So in scene one it's all laid out there--weird uprising secretive group, adorable secretive group, ultra counter-culture secretive group. Theme: secrets, y'all. This theme is the bedrock for the rest of the piece--beginning with the simple enough conversation of "Should we take down our Meetup online page and risk people we don't want getting in at the expense of possibly locking out a future welcomed member?" to a full-blown secret head council within a head council overthrow that results in the injury/killing of dozens of homeless folk in the town. We love secrecy, but it ruins us from the inside out. We can never stop second guessing what is real inside a secret space. That will never not be true.

A few more ideas: I loved the Crucible parallel to the Act I closing sign, which puts each character through the anxiety of signing their name to something they don't necessarily believe for the benefit of another. The snacks were not lost on this little dramaturgical theatre-goer! At the set of the show the Bronies have the poptarts. At the next meeting, rainbow cookies. And then as their utopia begins to deflate, a bowl of white popcorn. Finally, a crinkled bag of Cheetos. Gross, unhealthy, fast and cheap, perhaps even symbolic of Tr*mp (as some people call him The Cheeto). To me the most engaging moment in the whole play was Shawn's speech (long gone from wearing pink fuzz and back to his "manly" fedora) once he was at the top of the Antelope Party. He plagiarizes from his girlfriend who is desperate for power in an organization her father once ran. When she objects he basically complains that it's not fair. She has so much talent! Why shouldn't be entitled to at least half? It was chilling and, I'm positive, a conversation I have had a dozen times with men who didn't know they were having it. As she sprints away from this loser (and as my cousin whispered, "Go girl!") he screams she's a bitch before crumbling and confessing he loves her so much. Mama mia. Too real, 2018.

The development of the whacko plot was fast, yes. Too fast probably. After reading reviews of the show that seemed to be most people's beef. (That and feeling hoodwinked to see a political thriller when they were promised a rainbow of lil horsies). To be A. I'd rather see a play that moves too fast (perhaps unbelievably) than one that doesn't move at all. And if we were going to get to the end of this thing, in an explosion of paranoia, it had to clip along. B. I didn't feel hoodwinked because the principles of MLP remained despite new plot developments. It was COOL, guys.

I did have one hope that didn't pay off in this play. Shawn was such a garbage bag, and, look, I just wanted to see him get knocked on his butt. I wanted to see him fall. The end of the play circled around the idea that the three women on stage, sorting through all the mess of their "friends" should just band together. They were in a web created by and for men trying not to suffocate when they could simply all decide to run for it together. A character explains how stupid the whole Brony fad is in the first place. The show was meant to teach little girls to be friends and instead all anybody knows about it is that adult men like it. It's true, and something I had never considered. Can't we have anything? And so the end. The end being whats going to happen to these people? I just wanted more. I GET the ending of "Okay, ladies, facism is coming for you, so what are you going to do about it?" Hm, yes, I am an audience member and hmm how am I going to apply this question to my own life, yes yes yes. BUT, I already get it, you know? I get facism is coming for me, and I am doing my best to curb it. I now just want to see jerks get hit in the face. I was ready to whoop and cheer, and instead I could only clap.

Sunday, February 18, 2018

Special Lil City

Apologies for bitter me trolling out in that last entry. I was walking from a gig to the train yesterday with another comedian talking about how much non-Chicago friends complain when they visit. I live on the third floor, but I never think about it until I have guest from out of town (huff huff huff). You've gotta leave a half hour of public transit wiggle room. Yes, you have to wait for a table at brunch. Yes, you can go somewhere else. Yes, there will be a wait there too. Buy the tickets in advance. It does smell like pee right here.

I remember it too. My first two? Three? Four months? I was so tired. I realized all my shoes were $10 Forever 21 flats, and I was coming home hobbled and aching. I walk at least two miles a day just getting to and from the train. I was hungrier and there was less affordable food. I didn't realize I was overwhelmed with the people around me all the time. I was a person who acknowledged others on the train and in passing, and it exhausted my senses.

Now it's just life. I more likely to take a hack anyway. I eat more snacks at 7/11, Lyft Line exists, I wear a backpack, a tank top all winter so I don't sweat in foyers. But. All the daily difficulties are still there, and while I rarely think about them, they accumulate and bubble and infrequently burst and maybe I hassle a stranger on social media look, I'm sorry.

So the flip side is that this place is still so special. Last weekend for instance, on Friday I went downtown to meet a friend for fancy tourists-love-it icebox cake and free advanced tickets front row tickets to the hottest play of da year. And Saturday I graded papers before doing two shows at different theatres (in one I played a narcoleptic hedgehog and in the other Tara Lipinski). Sunday I had a meeting for a showcase and a 10 PM. This weekend I saw a dark new play in Edgewater, kicked butt in step class, did a celebration show for a wonderful charity, followed by a 9 PM, and today I will see another new work (dang!) matinee and meet with a writing partner before my 10 PM. Good Chi, grateful Chi.

Friday, February 16, 2018

People I've Fought In My Head This Week

-the student worker who is always on her phone when I entered the English dept office before class stood up and blocked me from my mailbox firmly stating, "students are not allowed back here"
-the woman who opened the office door between the hall and bathroom who said "you should have gone around" "around where" I asked "to the other side" "this huge sign says BATHROOMS THIS WAY" I said "well this door was locked" she said
-my coworker at the Writing Center who makes 50% more hourly than I do because the school enacted a pay cut right before I was hired who said when I walked in the office yesterday at 2:06 PM, "you're late"
-guy at dept. meeting who reiterated a smart suggestion a woman made back to her, acting like he was giving her advice on her own suggestion, for a solid two minutes
-every elected official who takes financial support from the NRA
-myself for not doing enough about gun violence
-other people for not even feeling guilty about not doing enough about gun violence
-the gd founding fathers
-anyone taking phone calls on the train
-anyone listening to audible music in the elevator
-the theatre company that had me write a third of a new musical over Christmas who didn't even bother to send a rejection letter until I asked
-the guy who grunts during HIIT
-my teammate who toed the line of explosive accusation and backpedalled to angst
-excessively talkative salon owner who didn't let me peacefully enjoy retail therapy
-CTA helpline person who refused to give me the office number to check if my favorite pair of gloves were indeed left there
-the whole educational institution that pumps us with spam and vital information via email one and the same
-the comedy theatre that informed me my class was cancelled only after I took off work and was standing in the foyer
-a nice aquaintance who threw in an Obama jab over tea
-my favorite student who acted like I was insane for upholding my late work policy
-waitress who teenily rolled her eyes because I didn't order wine

Honestly, when you think of how many fights I avoided, it's a modern miracle the most ridiculous thing I did this week was comment on a friend's cousin's tweet about wanting a huge engagement rock, "Diamonds are murder."

Friday, February 9, 2018

Worked on My Book for the First Time Since October

As long as you write something everyday. I agree and I disagree. I don't count journaling. I don't count blogging. Outlining. But then I start to not count just a page or two.

It seems like there should be priorities with projects, but you can't make yourself make yourself. I have tried. I have failed. My main fear is that in my patience, someone else will write it. I remember a girl on the volleyball team in college saying she never misses a practice because somewhere out there her opponent is practicing. And I still think about that. But then I try to remind myself we don't have opponents. Not like that. That's what neutral me believes, at least, until I see a movie trailer and think, "That's...a lot like my XYZ." But as a lover of things that I love, I would go to all movies about things I love, right? Several people watched this quirky Netflix film and texted me about it. "It's so you," a thing no artist hopes to hear. I avoided it until I was home alone with lots of snacks and no more papers to grade. I sucked in a huge basket of air and pressed play. It wasn't me at all. Or, rather, I would never have made it. I have rarely known such relief.

It's not about what I want to do. It's really not. It's about what I can do. Okay and a little about proving something. (To be honest.) But what I want has never been what's going on. It seems so beautiful and fortunate that I have rarely wanted. What an enormous gift.

Anyway, I finished another chapter of my book just now. Chapter 8 out of 12, to be exact.

Monday, February 5, 2018

First Sunday February

I made a big fuss about no alarm clocks, but I rose at seven. I did the good morning writes and sits and reads on the couch. In HIIT I did the most burpees in the class. I did box jumps like a true beast fueled by the previous night's gig in Indiana and the oatmeal creme pie I ate on the way home. I was so spent I couldn't imagine eating yet. I texted Puhg and we walked through the snow to the grocery store. Everyone was buying chips and dips. We passed a pop-up brunch at our favorite veg cafe. Cruelty-free chicken & waffles. I don't remember what we talked about. I responded to a promising email. I organized my sweaters and laid down. Lesson plans over two eps of Big Love. A little watching the guy play Until Dawn. My bus didn't come, so I met my girl on the train platform. We were both late for our own meeting. I saw three other comedians standing at the Red Line. Sometimes Chicago is the smallest. The bar we walked to was closed, so we sat in the balcony of Whole Foods with serious faces and then outlining our new project. Oh, it's good. I can tell. I walked across the street to i_. My Harold team goes on every week, but there's a jubilance when we arrive to the same green room. I cherish the night and play an overbearing marketer. Our coach says, "I'm glad you worked through the Winnebago scene" and if that's not priceless improv garbage, what is? I couldn't interact any more, so I sat next to two people riding home, not speaking. The bus would take five minutes. I was cooked. I stood looking out for it. It arrived, empty save a man sleeping on it with a six pack next to his head. The driver got up and shook him. The man took his sweet time debarking. It was fine. There but for the grace of God. I forgot my keys and had to call up. I wasn't just ready for bed. Reddit posts until the blanket of tired tucked around me.