Thursday, October 31, 2013

Waiting Outside

My mom hates all things frightening. When I was growing up sometimes I could sense her confusion  as she walked past me curled up watching Lady in White for the twelfth time or examining a dead possum with just a touch too much enthusiasm. But it's who I was, and my mom shrugged it off like, "I dunno maybe she'll grow out of or into being a weirdo. Yolo?"

I love haunted houses. Like. So much. So so so much. Why aren't they open all year? I'll never understand. I have this really clear memory of being in middle school, reading about a haunted house in the newspaper one day. For some reason the attraction was closing that night or something, and I was el bummed of course. No one was free, it was a school night, etc. etc. But my mom was just super caj and all, "I'll take you." And she did! We donned jeans and headed to this dinky but creepy haunted house in a series of trailers. My mom sat at a picnic table with some paperwork, and I did my social studies homework in line until it was time to go in. I walked through alone, soaking up every drop of blood, every creep with a mask. I came out, and my mom was drinking hot chocolate. She had one for me too. She asked how it was. I told her my favorite parts, but I left out the things that would churn her stomach.

This is a thing I will never forget.
Birthday cupcakes for the Alices. Plus! A ghoul-friend! Mine was chocolate covered marshmallow.

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Simple, Stupid

Exorbitance is so last season.

Campus at sunset Monday.
Now it's come to what you want, you've had your way,
And all the things you thought before just faded into gray.

Sunday, October 27, 2013

My Sister's Day Today

It's my sister's birthday. In honor, my favorite memory of her this past year:

I'd never seen a James Bond movie before, but I'd heard Skyfall was excellent. It was showing on the cruise, part of the "Movies Under the Stars" program. There was a giant screen above the pool on the top deck of the ship. A movie played every night. Popcorn was made, hot cocoa stand. The title was accurate. The stars were visible right above, just beyond the film. Glaciers slinked past. Sounds gorgeous, but it was also ALASKA AT NIGHT--read: face freezin' off.

Yet, my sister, even though she'd already seen the movie, gave in to my pleading to go. We joined the eight other people on deck chairs, piled on the blankets, pulled our hoods up. I brought us a plate of all the desserts and fancy cheeses offered in the buffet. She a book. "I can't feel my toes," she said forty minutes in. I puppy dog faced her. She pulled her hood in tighter and kept reading. Periodically I'd interrupt to ask a question about Judy Dench or something. We laughed a lot. We shivered. The double chocolate cookies were the best. "This movie is longer than I remembered," she garbled into her scarf. The credits rolled, we discussed the best parts, we shuffled our Uggs to our cabin.

Friday, October 25, 2013

Annoying Interruptions

I re-fall in love with Arizona every other day. It hit especially hard from the window of a tow-truck on Tuesday. I was in said truck because my scooter broke. The driver was super nice. He had a New York accent, and I knew I was in good AZ-lovin' company. A few feet closer to the palm trees up there. Fresh air in October, windows rolled down.

Got dropped off forty minutes before the shop opened. I sat in the shade on the sidewalk by an office. I made everyone uncomfortable even though I was wearing a harmless purple sweatshirt and eating ritzy Greek yogurt, reading on my iPhone. People entered the office through the side door, fiddled with their keys nervously. I didn't belong there.

I took the bus to school. The driver was a total nut and gave everyone onboard an extremely animated tour, screamed, "SEE YOU ON THE WAY BACK OR TOMORROW HAVE A GOOD DAY" to everyone stepping off. I was twenty minutes early for work. Sat on a stone bench and listened to Phantogram's new EP.

The truth is we hate anything that pops up that wasn't part of our plan. Don't mind that our plan isn't perfect. In fact, day after day, it's often boring. But, we still fret and groan about these annoying interruptions, that turn out to be not so annoying after all. I mean, it's not all rainbows and donuts. I had to buy a new battery. I was late to work the next day. But things were different. It was useful.

Monday, October 21, 2013

If You're Mad, Get Mad

It's 8 PM. Do you know where your Alice is? In bed. That's right, y'all. NOT IN THE THEATRE. My thesis play has closed. Big hurdle. Jumped.

I do not miss it. Not to say it wasn't a wonderful experience. It was. But every time the usher asked for my ticket and I responded, "Oh, I'm the playwright," I didn't feel the burst of Katy Perry triumph I Am Artist Hear Me Roar (I've got the eye of the tiiiiger!), I felt an impending doom like "I have to answer for this." I recognize how tired the tortured writer thing is, and I really don't put myself in that category, and yet here we are.

There is a lot I could say about this production and process, but the thing I want to say at the moment is that I believe in the power of reaction. The end of my play was controversial. I wrote an ending that didn't quite sit within the context of typical dramatic analysis and one that definitely didn't sit right with a majority of audience members. Some (many?) still enjoyed the thing (the play, yes, I'm calling my thesis "the thing"), but there's a squidgey discomfort about it. At the end of the play, people were confused, thirsting for different answers, and sometimes angry. And, I like that. Not because I believe in art as an inherent "stir people up and make em bonkers." But because I believe art should not only make us evaluate situations, but it should make us evaluate ourselves. And when we feel strong emotions (not just through the narrative, vicariously, but AT it--ie "I do not agree") we either reaffirm what we love, what we stand for...or we become more open-minded.
Act II, Scene ii.

I'm not saying the ending was perfect. I've got more revising to do. But there's importance in disliking things. I just wish I didn't have to sit in front of a crowd as the stamp for the disliked thing.

Earlier this week I watched the Miley episode of SNL over a bagel. Talk about someone who is disliked. But good for her for being such a THING. Such a disliked thing. Such a way for women to teach young women what not to be. But for who the media has been hounding as a complete trashball slut for the past month, there's still an innocence to this girl. She wore white, sat on a stool, performed an acoustic cover of "We Can't Stop." She really is a remarkable singer. Something in me fluttered when the camera closed in, she crooned, "It's my mouth I can say what I want to." I don't know. She stands for a lot of things I hate, but, also, I am hating AT those things, and that human is not a thing.

Plus, I love "Wrecking Ball."

Friday, October 18, 2013

Opening Night of True

Nervous. Excited.

Shells texts me emoji ghosts. The roommates yelp down the hall, "Tonight!" My sister presents me with a book of bat pictures. My aunt e-mails Xs and Os. Everyone's on my side.
True and Faith. Dress rehearsal.
Long black night, morning frost.
I'm still here, but all is lost.
Feel the storm every night, hope it passes by.
Hallucinate a shady grove where Judas went to die.

Thursday, October 17, 2013

High and Dry

Writing a play for high school girls. I have massive writer’s block, which is odd for me. But also, I’m just really grossly burnt out. I so don’t deserve to be. I just had fall break. This morning Ro stopped at home for a mid-morning cig and we sat on the back porch, her in work clothes, me in an over-sized Cosby sweater. It was like a game—“What stresses you out? This is what stresses me out.” And then we died laughing because we’re 20somethings just hanging out at 10 AM on a Thursday. How bad could it be? I mean, we recognized that, but then we paused, and all the grey stuff still hung over.

So, this writer’s block. High school girls. I plunged into some prime material: my old LiveJournal. It was just so sad. I mean, even when I was happy, it was still sad. This puddle of gloom, of “What will happen after this? This is all so fleeting.” College had umbrella’d since I was twelve. I clicked through other friends’ journals. None updated since 2006, 7. These kids stuck in cyberspace. And they were sad. So sad. Just like me! Girls I loved, girls I didn’t, girls I envied, girls who envied me. None of us were that different. But in each piddly little entry was a kind of hope. A hope that the writer was young and knew more was to come. Twinge of nostalgia for high school sure to end, but a feeling of relief that soon the confusion was over, the sad sack days were numbered.

Honestly, I liked high school, but I also grew up surrounded by TV and movies assuring me that growing up is supposed to feel like hell. At times it did, but that was apparently norms. College is more the mystery. Everyone I know went through some form of depression in college. But it wasn’t cute anymore. It's just wrong. "No one is supposed to feel this way anymore," you think. But deep down you know everybody does and this time it never ends.

Lena Dunham said in an interview last year that she created Girls to explore just what is wrong with youth culture. No one ever says they are happy when asked sincerely. For a while I took this as a challenge to be genuinely happy, and I think I was. I think I am. But it’s weird that the word “think” is in there.

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Mine and Yours

Woke up Sunday morning, stomach raging. I had planned to run but could only walk.  I took my time in Dizz's neighborhood. It's a nice place. That afternoon, after the schmancy brunch, after couchin', after chocolate almond bubble tea, we walked again. Dizz and I led the way, the boys trailed behind. I imagined Jamin asking Bisque "What are your intensions?" but actually they were probably yammering about Grand Theft Auto while Dizz explained how once at a wedding she led a miniature horse down the aisle. (Our lives are so different! Friendship!) I said she lived in a pretty place, and she said, "You have to take the good with the bad. The cracked. But the palm trees? They are beautiful."

LA can be very bright. But also, sometimes you are going to a wedding in an hour and very angry at a gas station because there was serious miscommunication about whether or not you need to pre-pay and there are people everywhere and it is also dirty and honking is a thing. But then you, like, do get to the wedding and there was plenty of time and you look fine and you dance your booty off with your date.
This looks like a glob, but in all actuality it is one of the best desserts I've ever eaten. A chocolate peanut salted caramel bar, like, give me one for the rest of my life. There was literally a part of the night everyone was on the dance floor yelling at me and Bisque to get up and shake it, but we kept using our forks to point to the dessert the guy next to us didn't eat which we were consuming. We shrugged and mimed kind of: "Sorry? Dessert and stuff!"
As usual, it is hard not to think about love at these things. I know the couple but not that well. This is the first time I've been a weddin' date, and I have to say, it's interesting. I came to support something I'm not sure if I agree with at all. Who is to say these two are together foreva? But actually, being there made me believe it. It was just a buncha words--often simple, at times generic...but sincere. And now when I see the newlyweds around I will think that. I will think, "Yes, I believe in you and I hope it's going well."
On Sunday night we made our way to the ocean as we believe good lil travelers should do. It's just a buncha stupid water, but, my, do I love it.
Meanwhile, I shared a bathroom with my college bestie all weekend. Forever! I say.

Friday, October 11, 2013


May 2012.
Today was the last day of school before fall break. I toted my new floral purse to work stuffed with the lesson, Dave Eggers, and a banana I stole from Ro's fruit bowl. At work I coached a student through a panic attack and my boss asked me if I would walk in the homecoming parade to represent the disability center. "No, my family is coming to see my thesis play." I told her, and she asked if they might rather see the parade. She wasn't kidding, which was actually refreshing. It's just a stupid play. I left at 1 PM, trotted out in my grey sweater, waited on a sun-doppled bench under the small tree out front of the design building. I love the concrete bridge, the cul-de-sac where people kiss and ride. Shells pulled up, windows down, and yelled, straight-up yelled, "ALLLL ABOOOARD!" I cackled like crazy. She took her lunch to see Don Jon* with me. We bought matinee tickets and joined three other people in the theater. Shells and I have a very similar sense of humor, and there is nothing like that.

We snuck foil-wrapped Chipotle into the movie. In the parking lot we remembered it was the first place we ever hung out one-on-one. We'd already become fast friends through sketch comedy, so one afternoon almost exactly two years ago we ditched everyone getting drinks after the show for burritos. I keep writing and deleting what I love about her because it's just boring to everyone else, but, mainly, I am so grateful I showed up in the desert with no one and two years later am surrounded by someones. Things move. There's nothing to be scared of.

*This is my favorite movie I have seen in 2013. A+.

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Snapshots of Improv Class (And Why I Love It)

Just so you know I haven't fully become a cranky theatre grad school elf, I should say I love teaching college improv. The world becomes better after each class. Kinda being cheesy. (Like, cue montage of me pushing open the blackbox doors to U2's "Beautiful Day" and like cartoon bluebirds chirp around my head as I smile at everyone in the Fine Arts Center.) But, partially, I really believe that my students and I become better after each class.

Some Wonderful Things That Have Happened Lately:

-I dismiss class, but say "I'll play a round of Beastie Rap if anyone wants to stay." They all stay.
-Two Entenmann's pumpkin donuts protected by only a Ziploc get decimated in my backpack. On my way to the trash I say, "Unless anyone wants them" and someone does.
-We play a goofy version of tag where when you're "it" you have to yell stuff, and a nice boy who always dresses in black runs ferociously after a girl in heels while screaming, "THE SUN'LL COME OUUUUT TOMORROW! BET YOUR BOTTOM DOLLAR!"
-After getting feedback that the token awkward, shy guy always plays himself, I ask him to play the school hottie jock. He is still awkward, but adds details like, "I wasn't listening in class because I was texting my girlfriend who is a cheerleader."
-Today a student gave a history presentation on Christopher Guest.
-A kid sends me his homework via email, includes a poem with such lines like "I broke up with my girlfriend because she said like/ Hitler was a jerk 'cos of the Third Reich."
-At mid-term I make them sit in a chair in front of everyone and hear all their strengths and weaknesses from classmates. They often fidget, but no one has gotten defensive, and everyone has felt unique and appreciated. This has nothing to do with my teaching and everything to do with how you can't help but love people you improvise with.

Monday, October 7, 2013

Any Other Way

ME: I do not want this play to open. I'm going to bomb the theater.
CLARA: Why? You're good at what you do. If you bombed the theater, the theater will be gone. bombed. Sad, right?
ME: ...No. I'm a mean little grinch.
CLARA: I want to fly to you so much
ME: Me too.
CLARA: and punch you.
ME: No!
CLARA: You are going to be okay.
ME: Yeah.
CLARA: You are going to learn something you couldn't have learned any other way.
Two years ago.
CLARA: It's okay to be afraid. You don't always have to be unafraid.

Saturday, October 5, 2013

Stick to Your Deal: Part II

The four of us were at the kitchen table full of markers and campaign stickers. My neighbor, vice president. Peppermint was to be secretary. Smidge the treasurer. And I was running for junior high study body president. Our ticket was SNAP--acronym of our names. ("It's a snap, vote for us!") We were writing our speeches. My big campaign promises were breakfast and a Christmas dance. Peppermint was most hesitant. She was scared of being on a ballot. She did not take rejection well. I'd seen her tear up during the thirty seconds people chose lab partners in Honors Science. Then we found out the Girl With the Best Handwriting was running for secretary too! From then on Peppermint was always muttering "I don't want to win anyway."

We drafted what we'd say at the assembly. "Maybe I don't have the best handwriting," she started. And my neighbor's mom, making up a tray of snacks for us (oh, to be thirteen again) hemmed in, "I wouldn't say that. Who cares? You don't need to make yourself look bad. Don't say that."

Humility is huge. We should be self-aware, but our weaknesses don't always have to do with the situation at hand. So don't make them. Stick to your deal.

I lost. I was runner-up. Out of six. Not bad. The faculty sponsor of Student Council told me "It was close." She leaned in, "Close." I was good. I ran for class rep and won. My mom was principal. She was there when the votes were tallied. I asked her how close. "You were definitely second. But there was a pretty big gap." She could have easily lied, but that's not how it was. Wasn't the honest result.
Middle school Poms team. Far left top Peppermint, left-mid Smidge, left-bottom neighbor. I'm also in here.

Friday, October 4, 2013

Stick to Your Deal: Part I

"Stick to your deal" is a loaded phrase in improv. Practically it means if you come out on stage with a Southern accent, you better still have that accent when lights are pulled. Philosophically it means be interesting in and of yourself. Your scene partner might explode with some huge initiation, and, yes, you should cling on and support, but the scene will be flat if you're just a mussel on the boat. People use this metaphor for everything, but when the plane's going down, you put on your air mask first and then the passenger's next to you.

The darkest cove. Something was off with my ex-boyfriend. It was a lousy week. I asked, "What? You want to take a break?" And he shocked me. He didn't disagree. I shoved my face into my pillow. He got up and I started to cry. He paused in the doorway. And I know he felt bad for me. But he didn't come back. He didn't even turn around. He stuck to his deal, and it was probably one of the kindest things he ever did for me.

Fall had just begun. This is not what senior year of college is supposed to feel like. I was carved of my insides, but even then I knew how it could have gone. Who knows how many more weeks, months (years?!) of that "off"ness. I'd cry, he'd stay. He'd stay, I'd cry, and so on forever.

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Look How Far We've Come

It's not uncommon for the guys in my improv class to play gay characters. I've known improvisers who introduce the fact that they're pretending to be gay as the joke. And that's the worst. That's just the worst. That kid who starts a scene with a lisp, and I'm like, "Cut. New choice."

The boys in my class end up gay because it's important to have a strong relationship in improv, and there are actually only so many of those in life: family, co-workers, friends, lovers. And which is most interesting? And because it's a college improv class the gender ratios are 1:3 girls to boys. Two-boy scenes are a thing. Two-boy love is a thing.

Monday two guys did this hilarious scene full of subtext about jealousy and inadequacy and they totally nailed it. Everyone hooted when I called Scene. The guys hugged because they had done good. No one felt uncomfortable. No one made a crack. There's a gay student in class (maybe a couple)--he (they?) were smiling. Sometimes straight boys date the gay boys' in improv land. All parties jump in free as birdies.