Wednesday, July 18, 2018

"Tribe"

Comedians and their tribes. It's an idea I think most people credit to Amy Poehler (her whole "find your tribe") quote, but it's been true forever and always. You roam around doing your thing in basements and mid-afternoon when everyone else has real jobs and you share this unique pain of being unbearably vulnerable and usually getting rejected or at best making $100 for a show that had eight hours of unpaid rehearsal. Eventually there's a group of "you." No one does it alone.

Tribes were simple where I came from. In high school I joined the speech team and became borderline obsessed with every person on it. I liked making weird little theatrical art my whole life, and so did my new pack. Tribe. My college had a ten-person improv team comprised of essentially every student on campus interested in entertainment. Tribe. I found the one way to do improv in St. Louis (and would drive an hour to do shady barprov). There were like five people I thought were funny, and then they were Tribe. And in Arizona I worked obsessively on making good comedy (for kind of no reason?). The three women I clung to became Tribe. I assumed when I went to Chicago Tribe would be there too.

Instead everyone already had Tribe. I did things out of order? I earned success, then took more classes, then always had to get up at 6 AM to catch the train before rush hour so I could sit down (and grade papers)? I already knew too many people I trusted? In Conservatory only one other person ever seemed to do the work, and we weren't compatible. I toured with bitter melons. When I graduated a comedy school, none of my peers asked me to be on their indie teams, but three peers asked me to direct them and they all assumed I would say "no," "above it." (I said "yes" to everything.)

What this means is when I have to do something really scary, and I need support, I talk to my odd cluster of Tribe. This past weekend, when I submitted for _____, I got all my feedback via email and text. Siev was, let's face it, a waste. Cowsk brought her legitimate eye. Jack helped me be line perfect and steer, Puhg gave me pats, Cobra was generally excited, Shell reassured from a viewpoint, Another a couple "okay"s, Kale a little of everything, Roff analyzed why it was working, and Henne questioned why it might not be and shot highlights. He emailed me, "You. Are. Ready." after a final pass. A ten person Tribe I can never find around one diner table, but one I am supremely grateful for.

It's hard to believe I might get anything. Ever. Because odds. Oof, odds. But in a sliver of attempt to not be pessimistic, I do know not everyone has ten trusted readers, and of the people who do, how many are as "you can do it" as mine? I know work doesn't define a person's worth, but it I can't not believe it helps. So I will try my best to hang on to this scrap that ten people believe in me based on what I did even if it doesn't amount to a single thing ever ever again.

Monday, July 2, 2018

Tink

My musical had it's third workshop performance this weekend. I sat in the far back corner, as I like to do. I can't even comprehend it anymore. I feel like a meteorologist in the theatre. Ticking down laughs and quiet spaces. I can answer a question for the director, recognize a complication in a line, and revise lyrics immediately. I love that feeling. But when I watch generally, it's mush. I've spent years with this story. I treat it like the painting of Buddha in the kitchen. Nine times out of ten if someone mentions "the Buddha painting" I ask, "What are you talking about?"

An interesting thing about my work is I am an educator at heart, but people don't love to be educated for some reason in theatre. I do. I love being educated in theatre. But, okay, I guess sometimes I recognize I prickle when I feel a piece is teaching me something I know. And then I have to be very patient, when, for example, a pretty good play at The Goodman right now has a huge section of text about why some people prefer "they" as their gender pronouns. I'm like oh come on did I just turn on Degrassi? (Also I love Degrassi, so my complaints are even more obnoxious) But then I remember The Goodman's average viewer doesn't know about "they" stuff. Heck the gay bi-racial, interfaith artist couple I worked for when I first landed here hated the concept of "they." "Bad grammar" they both cited over and over.

So like, how do you educate without letting anyone know you're doing it? And how to you not mansplain inside comedy? And also 80% of the time I feel like this little "art for social change" is stupid because children are in cages and I donated money and contacted Congress and I know I am kidding myself that's barely reason to feel like I worked for change. And I worry it will not be resolved and I worry I will become complacent because it's just so much easier. I'm sorry, I tell the golden egg inside myself. I'm sorry I am lazier than I want to be. But then I run an improv workshop for social workers and they feel so proud of themselves and laugh so hard and tell me how it's going to help so much, and then I'm like, okay okay I believe again. I clap my hands for Tinkerbell.

Sunday, June 10, 2018

Doin' Good

Back on track with my New Year's res. Took a break for vacation, which makes no sense, my res keeps me happy, and the place I should be happiest (vacaying) I neglected practice.

High-powered Step class even though it's been a minute. It's humiliating to mess up so many times but it makes a person strong, you know.

Minor set-back getting an extremely sugary coffee.

Then there were auditions at one of my theatres. Got an email that they were low on auditiors. No pay and around three hours of work, but I wondered if there were any women sitting in and I wouldn't know unless I was there sitting in, so I sat in. Guess what? No women but me. And I made sure to smile at each auditioning one as they took the stage. And when another auditor didn't like a girl for no particular reason I said, "Let's take her." You would do it too, but only if you were there, which is the main whole thing.

At home I set up a tiny office in bed to phone bank for the Congressional democratic candidate in my district. I made 50 calls, which I did not like at all, but I got a few more voters, and this is my duty as a person and my mess as a citizen in a country that does not value research.

A friend wanted to talk on the phone (despise) but I did it.

Could have watched something stupid over dinner, but dove into a true crime doc. Gotta learn about justice systems to get mad enough to change them.

Worked on my book. I have two goals for this week.

Took the train instead of a Lyft. Save any tank of gas we can.

Tried to make the new player feel welcome enough. Improvised a musical as a poached goat. Paraphrased MLK Jr., a finale that was a metaphor for bipartisanism, tossed out the compliments. (They're free.) Tried to make people feel good.

And then I could have gone to sleep but watched Kimmy S over leftover birthday cake. I did my best.

Tuesday, June 5, 2018

20 songs of 29

Black Magic - Little Mix
long hot trains to Evanston, visiting bunnies in the pet shop

We Belong - Pat Benatar
girl's tri
p to the beach and late night improv for the masses

Seize the Day - Newsies
teaching nuggets to sing and dance all summer

How Far I'll Go - Moana
recovering from depression, finding the stone

Everybody Knows - Jukebox the Ghost
crushing my third season of IA

Here Comes My Baby - Cat Stevens
pressing send on my Comedy Central packet and letting it go

It Ain't Me - Selena Gomez
I was broke, but at least I got abs

Thinking of You - Ke$ha
moody muddy Mississippi

Girl All the Bad Guys Want - Bowling for Soup
reevaluating my goals and wolfing after new ones

What a Feeling - Flashdance
risks

Creature Comfort - Arcade Fire
Halloween concert, my turquoise jacket

Ring of Keys - Fun Home
teaching hella theatre classes all year

Why Should I Worry - Oliver & Co
freefalling into the absurdity of my stupidest improv

I Think I Love You - Less Than Jake
tribute to my favorite film, new tatt, a highlight of the cold season

Chip On My Shoulder - Legally Blonde

writing, writing, writing my brains out

What's Left of Me - Nick LaShay
winter nostalgia as I clean for new nightstands

Your Song - Rita Ora
weights & love & shower soundtrack

Power - Little Mix
running like a boss, HT's JuniOr Prom performance

Sunset Boulevard - Sunset Boulevard
driving in LA, learning da biz

Harvard - Diet Cig
learning to open

Wednesday, May 16, 2018

Goodbye, Napa


Four mile run to a podcast with advice I tell myself I don’t need (I do). A friend from college tries to make plans, but I am set in being alone. A PA heading downtown. She orders, “Get ready! Come!” But I just can’t be with people, not today.
The only person on the hotel patio. Cornmeal blueberry pancakes. I write. I move to the pool. Kashishi is there so we discuss The Notebook. Nails sparkly pink, bookstore, Whole Foods vegan chicken salad. Read most of Leslie Odom Jr.’s memoir. There’s a brain click, I keep finding, for those who get in the club. I think I’m standing in the foyer. My brain in the foyer. An email comes from the treehouse. I had two goals for 2018, and I am 1.5 of the way there.

It is hot. Sweat through my leggings. Cowsk is acting today, and she is very good. I had researched solar wineries and she uses my findings for alts. Grief and I are invited to a private dinner with AP & MS. But we go long, and then longer, and it’s a hilarious scene, but the crew tide has turned. I get home at 9:30, nibble on some room crackers, fall asleep out of some feeling that’s not fatigue.

 My feelings are hurt and I tear up under my sunglasses. Get stronger, I tell myself. I look at the view (rolling hills and orange petals), sit down and make a to-do list. And it is a good day. Cowsk sends a text on my behalf. In a discussion about roller coasters, AP tells me people die all the time and could I please never go on one again. I am in shorts, so people talk to me a lot about phones and Pop-Tarts. In particular MS says dryly, “You remind me of a young me.” I change into a dress, and three gals have fancy Italian. Talk about love and possibilities, laugh and laugh. I walk around my clean hotel room touching things and saying thank you to them.

News from Chicago. It doesn’t phase me. I’m phasing out. The landscapes are still unreal, but the bugs are getting to me. We move and move and end in wine tunnels. I barely work from the in and out and breaks and lack of chairs. I watch TV as homework.

First things first a potential opportunity. A dusty dirt road. Then the very cool clam of AP’s trailer where I read Diablo’s play. Grief and I watch Friends. It’s the weirdest Russian doll to be on location for a movie on a dust patch inside a pristine motor home watching 90s TV. That’s show biz, I hear Diablo say in my head. Cowsk and I sit in an actor trailer though, and I slurp up the drops of advice she has. At night Grief and I have our Assistant dinner malts. It was supposed to be at the same time as all the ladies’, but they bailed on it. Because dream jobs can have long days and annoyances too it turns out. MR has said she loves horrible Baked Lays because they remind her of before she was anything. I pack late into the night. This person has said, “Does she know we love her?” PP is singing “Another Suitcase Another Hall,” so I chime in on backup, and it becomes a duet.

People are hugging. Last day. I sing Selena getting out of the van. Another dust butt shoot. Stir crazy has set in for everyone. Waiting and waiting. I eat my favorite donut for the last time. I have organized JS’s wife to surprise him on set. I shuttle to base and back with her. He jumps off a prop to grab her shoulders. All the Girls play HQ and get the SNL question wrong. I’m as set up as I can be. More than I hoped, and hopeful for more. When it is over we stand on this stupid road and AP thanks everyone, and Cowsk cries, and our fearless director says, “Congrats on your first movie, Alice! It’s all downhill from here.”
I wash up and curl my hair quickly, discuss the Spice Girls in the cab with Pubbie. At the Wrap Party I’m told I did a great job by S & SD. Grief and I watch all the slideshow photos. I stand close to those I admire and cheers with the funky fresh costumers. Then there is all the dancing in the world with AP leading the bounce. She tells me things and holds my hands while doing so. Madonna gets us turnt up. Cowsk takes the mic. Pubbie tells me we don’t want to stay any longer and I agree. Heart full, it’s time to say goodbye to this movie of a lifetime. Get into bed, turn on a sit-com, eat a donut I had smuggled home, reread my note, look forward to tomorrow.
I leave a heap of snacks. The food waste I’ve seen in the past two months is incredible, and now I’ve done it too. Unopened gummy sharks and a near-full package of Oreos. Three cans of La Croix. Glass bottle. I chuck my fruit cup but buy a Jamba Juice. Grief’s there. She waits while I go through a groin pat-down. We had said, “It’s okay, I’ll see you again soon,” last night and now we did. I get on the plane.

Sunday, May 6, 2018

On Location: Napa


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Discussions about confidence on the way to Burbank airport with Guff. Cowsk saves me a seat on the plane. She tells me she’s happy it’s me doing this, here. That is my deep maze in life, to be a person who you are happy is the one here. Landscapes are fake, all fake. I’m literally forever grateful for my nook in LA, but there’s relief when I see my hotel room with the pool view and white bedsheets. An oh when I see a shopping center walkable to the Marriot with Trader Joe’s and Target neon signs. Can't help it. I buy caramel ice cream from the former and watch Win a Date with Tad Hamilton in bed. I plan to write but fall asleep instead.

We film on a big ol’ hill for three days. I have a lot more respect for action movies, outdoorsy movies, winter flicks. At the end of Monday I find a tick in my bag. I am barely useful. There are minimal alts. Mostly stunts. I like tromping up and down though, even if planning bathroom trips is more difficult. This week I am distracted. In general I wrote maybe an hour, I don’t read, time sucks through screens and it’s tomorrow. I hate this feeling. Grateful I spot it so quickly. I had started to count down—partially to see Puhg, also because my job responsibilities are reaching mid-hour glass. I remind myself of a bunkmate from camp who took great joy in crossing off little campfire doodles over her bed as each day ended even though to my knowledge she was having a wonderful time.
Tuesday I spot a huge snake beneath AP’s chair. In the voice I learned to evacuate people from a cruise ship with I say, “Okay, everyone is going to get up and leave now.” Everyone jets out of the tent, but I stay, my eye on the slithery thing until the wrangler can grab it. AP mimics my manic yet peaceful tone for the rest of the afternoon. Cowsk takes me out to ravioli bread pudding dinner! She had an experienced woman help her out back in the day too. She tells me to do the same. I will. We wear blazers, say the things we hope. She has changed my life. And as with most people who change our lives, she’ll never fully understand to what extent. I call a Lyft and there are strobe lights and a microphone inside. The driver sees I am alone and says, “It’s just a fun thing, don’t feel pressured,” but I’ve already cued up Miley Cyrus. I sing my heart out, tell Grief & Cowsk over morning crosswords. AP asks to see the video and passes my phone around v vill. I snatch it back when it gets to MS. He asks if we can put it on the big screen.

Small existential crisis because making movies seems stupid.  Everything is an emergency, I say, and Cowsk says exactly. It’s so much time, so much effort, so many people and for what? I can’t stop scrolling through news about refugees. I could do something good for me but instead I have a slice of cake and an ice cream sandwich and then pizza as I get in the van. I watch a TV show everyone seems to love, grouch that it’s boring, eat potato chips until I feel foggy and pass out. I text Puhg. I’m reminded this is every job. This is a symptom. Just be good, art matters. I journal about what this story will mean for women out there and am mostly restored. The six stunt ladies are all friends and never get to work together because movies rarely have more than one (maybe two) female jumps, tucks, rolls. I could be any block. I’m not going to get over it tonight.

The dang thing is almost done but I feel like I have actual co-workers now. The winery is very pretty. I had time to send a few emails, but I couldn’t. Not today. Again, distracted. I work very hard to not eat junk and my reward is an Iron Chef Japanese restaurant at night with costumers and a makeup man. We dance so hard we are exiled to a private room. Our server asks us to leave out the back, but she is kidding. I love her. I think about loving strangers. MT has explained this to me numerous times. I look for evidence. My birthday is mid-may but dang if we don’t get cheesecake with candles in it. I bought too much cold brew and one of the girls says she couldn’t possibly take it from me. But I don't want it! I insist. Demand and supply.

Friday I run four miles and take a cab to the Michelin Star Napa God’s hut. I buy every pastry I’m interested in and sit in the floral garden chewing them. Banoffee cream puff: my favorite. We shoot in a small town. Crowds pack the streets with phones out for blurry pics of RD saying one line. A woman stands directly behind me taking photos for half an hour of AP’s back. It’s jarring. I understand, but now I get it. Grief helps me pick out a floppy sun hat, we split a puzzle book. We are next to each other twelve hours every day. I am already sad to split. I get so attached to people informationally. I like knowing what my third row-mate had for dinner, what time she went to bed, if she made any phone calls. I hold out for real dinner and end up printing revisions through it. Two people give me false directions and I almost cry I am so hungry. I find my Thai box and wolf it with gals + MR + AG. Happy happy tofu am I. I've experienced it my whole life--I'll never be me here, and then I am me here. There’s free ice cream with Pubble and the cones are made with cardamom. Storefronts, cool breeze, wet street. Like Wisconsin when I was a kid. I had a dream about our script super helping me in my personal life. It's just too much of my subconscious to handle. I tell Grief, who tells AP, who tells everyone at the oyster bar, and when I'm getting my headset on for a reset, I hear all the actors laughing about it. 

Buy sunscreen & yogurt, do weights in the gym. Take a sketchy bus with stare-ers and chatters and ooglers. (Uber back.) Vineyards unreal, pour some candy in an old train. Wish I could buy books like I used to. My mudbath is divine. I plop in and actually do feel poison shifting out. Hot sludge. I’d stay much longer if I could. A tub of orange salts, steam. Then I am wrapped in a cool towel and left to lie. I swim in the hot springs outside watching a mom filter a photo of her son while he screams, “PLEASE PUT YOUR PHONE DOWN MOMMA!” Lots of boozed up ladies. They put their hands against a waterfall and call it the “getting arrested.” I arrive at Oprah’s favorite things bakery with ten minutes to spare, pack my knapsack with treats (more later, more later). One of my favorite meals of, I dunno, ever with sweet potato fries and thick kale salad and chocolate malt. I’m beyond happy. I’m blissed out. What did I do to deserve this evening walk on the riverfront and a shuttle home with flashing lights and full control of the radio. I stay up too late but finally unpack my bags and make a to-do list. Eat an Oprah's favorite things English muffin. Distractions are over. I left them in the bottom of the muck.

Wednesday, May 2, 2018

LA: Six Don't Mix

Out of all the incredible people in the world, I have already met the best ones. There is a bitterness I never want to know. I sit with three of my first improv students over Vietnamese. One calls me Momedy. Being a teacher is the best. I email my Chicago students pump-ups about finals. I wish I could be there. I really really do.

When we switch locations, no one waits for me while I’m printing. I’m rushed across town in a van to deliver the pages hot into AG and TF’s hands. I had zoomed as fast as possible, but who knows what it looks like. The bar is smoky. It reminds me of haunted houses. We go late, and I am cranky. Sitting in a closed down deli watching a monitor. My brain isn’t working enough to be productive. I eat too many noodles and still open a candy when I get home. AP introduces me to TF. I text Puhg a billion messages. He sends me love.

Zumba, bang trim, unclear times. I see how people, no matter who they are, can feel self-conscious or negative. Is everyone? My experience is too limited. The evening is easy-going. AP orders me to find her a funny video of Melania avoiding Trump. We talk a lot about Nic Cage. No matter where you are, there are days like this, where we’re happy to be doing the work. The camera man steps on my foot and must stay there until the shot is over. It’s really okay. I can’t stop snacking after work. This week has been brutal on my guts. My leggings are snug.

Early in Malibu. Have a pier oatmeal and write up notes for Turk’s pilot. The ocean is gorg, the surf’s up, but I feel the best because I’m replotting his story arcs. Later, when he texts me, “OMG these are the best notes I’ve gotten” I feel settled. I close out my solo time with an ice cream sandwich. The winery canyon is gorgeous. Unreal. Sit on a slope thinking about guilty Bill Cosby. It’s cold, and I forgot my coat. MS notices. I feel guilty taking up his brain space. There’s a lot of goofing with Grief. We’re perched in a teeny crook and pass back and forth into the actor cottage to keep warm. There’s a moment I have to trot down for a question. The scene looks just as it does in monitors—glowing and wine. Cowsk asks me to text her when I get home. The roads are winding, we wrap at 2. The sunset was purple.

I let myself move slowly. My insides are ugly. Kath and I have pastries and walk around the rich houses. I have a salad for dinner and write in the house café I almost feel will be a Place. I’m proud that I know how not to be awkward when I am new somewhere. I do my first LA BWC at a big fat theatre. I do alright, but it’s the first pancake. East Side Fury. Diablo is outside waiting. She’s too enthusiastic with the rest of the cast and we walk a mile to an ice cream shop. It is VERY GOOD. Notably so. There are no closed doors when I’m with my people. A Jar’s birthday in a speak-easy. The bouncer shows us a video on our way out. We don’t stay very long and end up laughing hysterically in the parking lot. It reminds me of when I had to say goodbye to Puhg the night I moved to Chicago. Seen.

In love with the main drag—super sunshine. Oatmeal date smoothie. I get a wax & massage for half the Chicago price. A lime juice fruit cart. I’m supposed to be packing, but I want to soak it up a little longer even though a scrub cat calls me for a long time. Diablo and I had jumped up and down about our love for Brit Marling, so she comes over with her DVD case. We eat candy on candy and watch her work. We’ve now seen it all. Are they all the same? If it’s true each writer writes the same story over and over, what are ours?