Sunday, October 15, 2017

I Wanted to Stay (A Sexual Harassment Story)

I had just been cast on my first post-college improv ensemble. We had real shows in real city theatres and I was working with a cast I had never met before. We rehearsed for three weeks before beginning a six week run. I was 22 and thrilled to be in a professional production. It was janky and we never ended up getting paid like we were told we would, but I wouldn't have traded it for the world. Our director was a middle age guy who I thought was smart, funny, and nice. I owed him, let's call him Pete, big time. Everyone else on cast was a company vet. He plucked me from a sketchy bar jam and took a major chance on me. I took the opportunity very seriously and worked my butt off. After our final show we had a big cast party in the theatre. I was on cloud nine. I had new pals, my first non-school resume line, and, mostly, I had done it. I had become an adult who did art. I was so proud.

So the party has been going for a few hours and most people are tipsy (I am sober). The group has dwindled to six, and we're just sitting around telling stories. Abruptly, Pete asks for my number, which is odd because he has it. The mood kinda shifts and someone maybe even says, "Leave her alone" in potentially real/potentially joking way. I feel awkward. Did someone just accuse Pete of hitting on me? I don't want anyone to feel uncomfortable on my account. Especially Pete. I have a lightening flash of what could happen: I imagine someone misconstruing the comment, Pete feeling ashamed, and to avoid any future misconception, never casting me in anything again. I smile as genuinely as possible and say, "Oh, everything's okay!" Pete says something like, "See? She's not scared of me!" The conversation continues. Phew. But Pete's not participating. He's chatting quietly to himself about how he's gonna call me. Party's over. We all start picking up bottles when Pete says loudly, "I am going to call you. I'm serious. When are we going to have sex?" I freeze for one moment and then let out the most immensely unnatural laugh. I think the laugh makes Pete think I'm comfortable, when my brain is screaming, "Walk out of this theatre right now and never come back." Pete says some more stuff to me that I really don't remember because I am playing a rapid-fire game of mental chess to decide how to make this thing a non-thing. New friend Dusty takes Pete by the arm and says, "Help me out upstairs." Pete gets pulled away while literally screaming about my dimples. I wish could say I'm on the road in five minutes, but the drunk tech guy insists on walking me to my car even though I told him over and over I was right in front and I'd actually rather just go alone. At my car he leans against the driver's door (blocking me from entering) and tells me how sad he is, how much he wants a girlfriend. I tell him I want to go home repeatedly, but he begs to just sit in my car with me. I am cold, so I let him sit in the passenger side seat while I am as far away as I can be and still inside the vehicle. He talks until he's sober-ish. I finally drive away.

So, what did I do? Nothing. Why? Well, mainly, I wanted to stay. That company was the only professional comedy theatre in my city. There was only one director. There was an owner, but he lived in LA and Pete was one of his oldest pals. I walked down the line of possibilities and didn't see one where I would stay at the theatre and Pete wouldn't. Also, I felt ashamed. Maybe I wasn't actually that good at comedy. Maybe this is what he was after all along, and casting me was the long con. I decided if I didn't mention it, maybe everyone would forget. And that's essentially what ended up happening. I didn't see anyone for the week of Christmas. When we came back for a New Years gig Pete never apologized or mentioned what happened. I kept working with him for six more months. Sometimes he was harsh with me in notes and I wondered if he was trying to show people he was boss after I had shut him down. I'll never know. Maybe he honestly didn't remember the incident and no one told him. Anytime he was around I was mathing out if there were any possibilities of someone leaving and someone else going to the bathroom and me ending up alone with him. And then I'd write in my diary, "Don't be so full of yourself. You're blowing everything way out of proportion." I felt guilty to be afraid of something I never voiced to anyone else.

I did meet with Pete once privately, at his request, in a pizza place. He wanted to talk shop. I was sharp with him. Mean. He looked at me like, "What is wrong with you?" I felt bad but then thought, "Should I feel bad?" I still felt bad. I moved away soon after. He accidentally called me a couple years later. I picked up. We had a nice catch-up. Maybe it wasn't an accident. Even now, I don't want to say he is a bad person. Overall, I really liked him. This is still confusing for me.

My story is an extremely tame example of harassment. I am so lucky the worst I've weathered is an improv teacher talking about my boobs, another one mooning me, a professor asking me about my vagina in a grad school class, this dude being a creep. I honestly wrote this a few days ago and then decided not to post it because I was worried someone might see it and think I just want attention or I'm a wimp because this was barely harassment considering what other women have been through. But last night after a show some ladies and I got to talking about creeps of our past. Nothing life-ruining, but still icky. We'd all been there. WNT ended at midnight. We sat in the greenroom until 2. E and I were the last ones in, waiting for our cabs. She said, "I usually don't talk about this stuff because I don't want anyone to judge me, but I feel less crazy knowing I wasn't alone." And if this is how I felt, god help the women who were attacked, coerced, exiled. God help them do what they need to do because they too want to stay.

Thursday, October 12, 2017

Maturity

I. Waiting for the light at Clark & Belmont. Guy in front of me wearing shorts. Huge Heath Ledger Joker tatt across his calf. I don't think it's stupid. And I don't think he's got issues. I think, "I wonder why the Joker is so important to him."

II. In improv rehearsal we do solo scenes. I think about ways I could knock the exercise out of the park. I choose instead to do something out of my comfort zone that will challenge me. I flounder. I don't feel embarrassed or concerned. I consider what I have learned.

III. I just became a cast member at another theatre. A friend gave me a cute lil welcoming gift--three candy bars wrapped in tissue paper. I ate half a Twix last night. I thought about saving the other half for today. I didn't, but I thought about it.

Sunday, October 8, 2017

The Past Three Weeks of Art

Sunday: Wrote at a coffee shop all morning & afternoon.
Monday: Taught Medieval Theatre all day, ran home to take a meeting with a television producer. Prepped a piece for a callback in the morning.
Tuesday: Early SC callback (three hours), immediately hit the train to tutor writing for two hours. Had my first "Business of Playwriting" class.
Wednesday: Taught Intro to Devising class, Harold rehearsal, Harold show.
Thursday: Writing Center shift. Vigorously doing playwriting homework. Playwriting class.
Friday: Taught English 101 all day, pass out in the afternoon, see a new play at The Goodman.
Saturday: Step class, pump-up coffee date, see Puhg's movie premiere, family dinner, three hours of improv shows.
Sunday: Took my mom to brunch. Spent the entire day preparing a comedy writer's workshop packet. Finished at 7 PM, just in time to scarf dinner and run to the theatre to host and perform in a Harold show.
Monday: Got to school early to check-in guest speakers for my Theatre History class--a local improv team. Researching local theatres. Eating junk and froyo with old castmate all night.
Tuesday: Spent morning applying for theatre production, Writing Center shift, 3 hour BWC rehearsal.
Wednesday: Beginning of Directing unit in Theatre History, dinner with teammate, Harold rehearsal.
Thursday: Shift tutoring at The Writing Center, Indian with my sister, playwriting class, grading until midnight.
Friday: Taught English 101 all day, met up with old SC cast member for cake, dinner with Puhg, a live Bat at i_, new play at The Goodman.
Saturday: Audition at CSz. Fight with a Trump supporter in a bagel shop. Writing Center shift. Work on my pilot. BWC & WNT shows (three hours). Hang with the bros and go to bed at 2.
Sunday: All day trip to Fright Fest at Six Flags! But you KNOW I woke up ay 6 AM to write first.
Monday: Theatre History. Writing madly in my office. Chili with writing parter of yore. Harold show.
Tuesday: Writing Center shift. Surprise visit from Syd. Callback for CSz. Dash to playwriting class. Get convinced to stay out late eating cake with Syd discussing out past and present.
Wednesday: Theatre History special guest = my old director. She teaches and I treat her to salads and coffees downtown. Last minute invite for a film audition. Run across time learning the sides as I travel. Ingest a caramel apple much too fast. Harold rehearsal. I stay at the theatre to run warm-ups and coach an improv show.
Thursday: Up at 5 to work on a new play, outline calendar to see if I can do a run I am offered, Writing Center shift, cry in my boss's office, Puhg makes me dinner, off to playwriting class.
Friday: 5 AM up to grade, teach 101 all day, write in the afternoon, pass out, wake up in time to see improv show I will audition for in two weeks. Grade papers until slumber.
Saturday: Ran two miles and then train to The Goodman for a reading of Jose Rivera's newest play. Lunch date with Puhg followed by afternoon of writing at the library. Zip to BWC show at SC. Eat a funfetti ice cream sandwich with the cast.
Sunday: I woke up and immediately started working on my pilot. I took a break for HIIT class at the gym, a bowl of cookie dough dip, and a Rick & Morty. I just finished my pilot. I reflected on how much dang art I do. I wrote this.

Monday, October 2, 2017

Six Flags Great America Fright Fest

Front of park blared the Halloween synth. A lake of blood in front of the carousel. I was happily overwhelmed. Pumpkins and cobwebs, skeletons and boarded up hot dog stands. We started on The Raging Bull, which near whipped my pigtails out. Next the Giant Drop. After our show Saturday, Dal reminded me about the girl who's feet got cut off on that ride several years ago. I had never been on Goliath before, and I hurt my throat screaming on the first drop. It was such a vertical plummet I was sure the track broke. Puhg didn't want to do V2 but later said it was his favorite. I remember waiting in that yellow line when I was in 8th grade. I felt suddenly hungry, so we went to the cobalt blue "Jack's Snacks" for pretzels. Then Batman, which made us both dizzy. I got a bag of pink cotton candy. The children in line for The Whizzer all looked at me scarfing it with jealousy. It was not as smooth as I remember. I wanted to see the hypnotist. It was such a shimsham "show," but Puhg and I like a middle age woman in a Tweety shirt who took pretending to smell something gross very seriously. Puhg took a car nap. I rode Superman. It broke down twice while I waited, but then I flew right at sunset. The sky was a dazzling purple. I am impatient at theme parks. I was meeting up with Puhg for dinner. It took him twenty minutes to get to me and I could barely stand it. I decided to have a funnel cake fudge sundae. I said, "That hit the spot," when I was done eating and Puhg explained that was very funny. I still don't get why. Something about excess, but I really truly don't understand. I used my (extra $15) fastpass to zoom through five haunted houses alone. I also tried The Joker and didn't particularly enjoy being flipped and hurtled, but did appreciate being so disoriented I couldn't tell where the beauty of the sky and the electric bulbs began. The best part of the haunted house was when two guys lunged at me from two different corners of a room and knocked heads. They cursed and whispered, "You okay bro?" and then attempted to get back into character and scare me. I particularly liked the house that told the story of a little ghost girl who killed all humans who enter her home. I nearly tripped over a bloody mattress when half a carcass reached for my ankles. Closing time was nine. In the last half hour I decided I wanted to see everything from up high again. No one was at Giant Drop. When it opened the wait was two hours. I had to walk through snakes and snakes of line fence and arrived in my own private row. I faced out of the park, the north suburbs of my city. I could make out all the typical words on buildings. Auto-Zone and Burger King. The technician kept us up there for a while. Maybe even thirty seconds or so just waiting to fall. I unintentionally screamed when the bottom gave out. "Do you want to go again?" the girl on the mic asked. I think there were four or five of us. I called out to Puhg waiting on a nearby bench. I tried several name variations, but he couldn't hear me. I wanted to wave from the top. Suddenly I felt so alone. There are things no one else will share with you. There just are. Has it always been this way? Did cavemen experience stuff and have a guttural need to have someone else see? At the top it was silent. I fell the 200 feet.

Monday, September 25, 2017

Other Lives I Am Not Living

On my way home from girl's night with Nep I see a few couples at the Thai restaurant on my block. It's 9:30. They're sitting down to dinner. I understand this is a very city thing. I guess people work late and then maybe go to the gym and then by the time the train has taken them home...

I don't have late dinners, so this is a life I am not leading. I can't imagine a possible fork that would have led me to it either.

Right now I could have been on a cruise ship doing more comedy. I think the itinerary would be taking me up the coast of Canada this week. But I opted out. I guess there was the option of staying in Arizona for that teaching job. But I'm somewhat certain it would have crumbled underneath me. I am more than somewhat certain I would have left for Chicago after a year anyway.

There's the version of me who went to Japan instead of grad school. I think she ends up staying for two years, but I'm not entirely sure what she does for work now.

There is a gritty restaurant hostess in the Bay area with friends who don't like me. And probably a Boston babe who wants to move to Chicago.

I think all the possible Alice's ultimately want the same thing and the ones with enough gumption to have gone for it earlier are scared. The ones who are still waiting are hopeful.

Saturday, September 23, 2017

Favorite Arizona Fall Memories

Yesterday was no September 22nd. It was muggy. I wore scalloped green shorts to work and a t-shirt to The Goodman at night. The play we saw (Continuity by Bess Wohl) was about climate change, and I couldn't help but feel extra sticky on the walk home.

This is Arizona fall. I had improv rehearsal on Sundays at noon. I often took the holy day as an opportunity to buy myself a Starbucks treat--an iced pumpkin mocha latte. I would hold the cold drink in one hand and steady my handlebars with the other. The little circular tower atop the Fine Arts building. I would look out that window and worry about Act One, Scene Three. Puhg and I wore pajamas to get half price froyo at our favorite place on campus. Or he picked me up for my lunch break during full-day rehearsal for my thesis play. The girls on my comedy team went to that old ranch for a haunted house. Bug couldn't stop talking about her new boyfriend she didn't know if she liked or not. Shell and I had to keep doing the knowing glance game. When the streets were suddenly nutso and I remembered about football. I went to a weird speech tournament alone. I remember being full of Costco muffins and walking up a hill into the parking lot. I rarely asked, "What am I doing here?" I wasn't often sure what to prioritize. I went from the soft white carpet of a condo to orange concrete in a House of V. The sun seemed so powerful I never believed it would go down. The first Tuesday night dramaturgy class that ended in the dark confused me. I didn't have a bike light yet.

Thursday, September 21, 2017

First Year Out of College

I've decided I'm going to be one of those people who has an empty inbox. You know. Delete stuff I no longer need. File things I want to save. Be reminded easy what I need to respond to.

I decided this somewhat randomly about two weeks ago. I was at The Writing Center and no students had come in for walk-in tutoring. I had around 17K emails in the the gmail I started in college. This isn't that much maybe. I also have a junk account, two school accounts, and a professional artist account. Maybe I'll deal with those sometime too.

So, first, I used the search bar to weed out advertising junk. I deleted all the "Groupon," "Twitter," "Jamba Juice" hits etc. After destroying as many spams as possible I started working through my cache starting with the oldest messages to the newest.

Right now I have 7,881 emails in my inbox. I have lurched from my freshman year to my first year out of college. It's been weird to my life snippets in a vertical list. That year seems so foreign to my life now, but it was actually incredibly foundational. A flurry of student notes from the Writing Center, navigating a weird boss for an after school program, running my first marathon, all my grad school statements of purpose, a community theatre musical rehearsal emails, indie improv team volleys. Some of it is embarrassing--advice I gave in a very knowing way, hatching my sense of humor, I had no fear, and I substitute taught an English 100 lab for free on Valentine's night.

But, oh, there are precious moments. Long chains with friends who were still friends, pictures from Dusty, and the most charming: a lesson plan for the first improv class I ever taught. The usual teacher for the Level One class at the comedy theatre I performed at couldn't make one week. He asked this other girl and I to cover. We were PUMPED. We went out for pizza beforehand and freaked out about everything we wanted to teach the class. The place was called Suds or something and we sat at a countertop and just gushed about all we loved and hated about improvising. We practically ran to the theatre screeching in excitement. We had both just broken up with our boyfriends.

When we arrived we found only ONE PERSON there for the class--a middle age woman who was pretty nervous. No idea why she took the class, but it was only her second attempt at improv ever. The other girl and I were not deterred. We went full-ham on our plan and took turns being in the scene with the woman. Toward the end of the three hours, I think we were both so eager to act, we just did a ton of three person scenes. We laughed and laughed in that shady, bunk basement room for rent.