Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Growing Pains

I've been writing less and less because I do a lot of things now. One of the newest things is performing musical improv on a weekly basis. Sometimes, this skillset is very natural to me. I sing a lot. A lot a lot. But I am very new at the whole actual musical improv performance shebang! Our first show was tonight. Bombs away! I'm experiencing things I haven't even thought about since, like, my first improv class. The total freeze-up. The complete poof, nothingness in dialogue. Sometimes knowing, "Wow, I really didn't kill it. I didn't even remotely injure it. I think I bored it." The shaky trust in a stranger who is now your husband and you're at a made-up party together and now there's a backstory about the party and your job at Bath and Body Works and also the piano is riffing so YOU ARE ABOUT TO SING. MAYDAY MAYDAY. I mean, really, many times it's fine, but it's...I don't know, almost exciting to be at the bottom again. I feel myself stretching and growing at an extreme rate. Most of the things I do take such time and slow sprouting. Writing plays is not, like, something you improve at in a two hour rehearsal. But musical improv IS. Trying new things helps us remember how scary the stuff we're used to can be for other people AND how incredible the feeling of rapid progress is. How sweet it is to be somewhere steps are miles instead of inches of nuance. Learning the basics in big sloppy bounds. Mud piles of newness flying!

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Tragedy in Drama

Just! Had! A! Veggie! Ranch! Burrito! With! Shine! (An grad school peer of mine who's in the city for a conference!) I dunno. I liked him in school, but I loved seeing his face. I'm missing AZ fiercely in this nineteen degree ice hole.

It occurred to me for a moment that he should read my new play. But then I  remembered he's in school and a full time teacher. He doesn't have time for that. I thought about offering to read his stuff, but I know I can't. I'm a writer, which means I write and have a full time career. Major art trap. All the talented muses I've ever met are too busy to quietly read each other's work. I bless those sweethearts who do.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Apology, Apology, Apology

In high school Ty used to come over to my house on Sundays at 7 PM when his parents thought he was attending Catholic night mass. It became our thing. Once we went ice skating, once bowling, sometimes he'd help me with physics homework, and one night we just sat on the floor of my bedroom shedding our biggest fears and explaining why we thought we were the way we were. There was something personal I said, something about how I viewed the world, about what scared me, and he made fun of it. Like, pretty quickly. On one hand it was almost refreshing because my concerns were just a joke to him. On the other hand I felt my safe space had been abruptly broken. I told him so, and he kind of scratched his head and the night wound down, and he went home. He called me there apologizing. "I just realized really how much of a jerk I was. I was asking you all these personal questions and then I made fun of you." Yeah, it was true. I said it was okay.

AZ State Fair, 2011. I miss it.
The next day at school I was attacked. All out mutual friends found me during the day." Ty says sorry," they all explained. Sometimes people were sincere--mostly flippant. He hadn't said why he was apologizing. He just sent everyone he could to say sorry. A girl I didn't know stopped me in the hall and asked if I was Alice. She said sorry on behalf of Ty. I even got a few calls after school. This was before social media, so he must have just announced before his classes, at lunch, etc. "Hey, if you know Alice, tell her I'm sorry." Ty called at night and asked if I had gotten the message. Yeah, I had. I didn't really know how to process the day. I mean, it's not like quantity matters in apologies, but it was such a creative way for him to know he meant it? Maybe? I still don't know for sure I guess. But I held nothing against him. That was that. He went on to ask me to prom, go to college, and we lost track of each other.

Saturday, November 15, 2014

Memories of Girl Scout Day Camp, 1997

The summer after third grade a bunch of my friends went to a Girl Scout day camp together. I have very few memories of this experience, which is very strange since I remember most things entirely. I did not make any new friends, nor did I forge stronger, better friendships with my troupemates. When I think back on the one or two weeks it's a haze of popsicle sticks, one very obnoxious multiple-verse song that was eerily satanic, and standing inside a lodge while it rained. I told Peppermint, "At least the mosquitos will be dead now," and she explained it was actually just the opposite.

Two things though. One is that on some afternoon our counselor told us there was going to be a talent show, so our group would sing some lame song in front of everyone soon. Once we arrived at the talent show it was painfully clear that other groups had spent all morning preparing and had funny skits and choreographed pieces. Our counselor had, instead, decided we would do a craft with egg cartons, which we didn't have, and spent the AM shift lying on a picnic table while we, in a big pod, walked from campsite to campsite begging for craft materials like some weirdo forest urchins. During the talent show I was absolutely horrified to follow a group of girls who did a cool interpretive dance with hula hoops. We stood in one line screaming that terrible devil song because it was the only one we all knew. I saw we would be awful and tried to hustle everyone to find a different common tune even moments before we "performed." "What about Phantom of the Opera? Don't we all know Phantom of the Opera? Look, it's not hard. I can teach you." I was murmuring to everyone in line. My cousins were visiting that week, and when I got home I recounted the whole disaster to one of them who grew extremely agitated to be listening to my patter. It was the first time I realized that not everything about me is interesting by a very very long shot.

My friend Ick and I became completely obsessed with the friendliest and prettiest counselor who went by "Star." "If only we had Star as a counselor," we'd pine while watching her group run around giggling. We'd turn back to our counselor who was still trying to get her cd to work so we could "listen to it and be quiet." We wrote Star fan letters and stalked her during all-camp festivities. During the Friday luau she was nowhere to be found. I noticed another counselor, Froggy--a fat white guy with an ever sweaty red face--looking suspicious. He entered a telephone booth sideways. I darted over. An exhausted Star was in there too! I watched through the glass. She would make some tired motion, he would say a couple things, she would laugh hysterically--nearly crying. Her eyes sparkled like her namesake. I finally knocked on the glass. Star turned around and recognized me as one of those psychotic children who chased her down every day. She just put her finger to her lips, so I walked away. I still don't know what that meant--the sign she gave me. Don't tell I'm not doing my job? Don't tell I might be in love with Froggy of all people? Just don't say anything, you whacko? I think of them every couple of years and hope they are married.

Thursday, November 13, 2014

But Sometimes It's the Time to Win

On Monday my newest play was performed at The Goodman. I won the competition very unexpectedly. That night I left school en route to the taco shop Bisque and I happened upon this summer. I can't believe I was sweating through my shorts that day. It has only been three months. He met me for celebratory breakfast burritos. The service was terrible, but the green sauce was grand. I don't remember what we talked about. The things.

I picked up my comps and saw Tone at the box office. My sister had told him. DB was there too. Tall and jolly as always. The actresses were excellent--a major privilege. I had made my peace with losing this thing. I winced at some parts, mentally revised others, let out my breath when yes, the crowd laughed and when yes, it was finally over. Tone gave me a tiny clap and DB offered one meaty comment. We all took the red line home talking mostly about summer camp. Once we were on our block I told Bisque, "Yeah, so it's not my best work." He patted my back, "That's what you always say." Stretched my legs like I remember doing in Ballet I, cracked open a Diet Cherry 7UP, nearly fell asleep watching Kathy Bates as the bearded lady.

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Wait for the Light

I spend a lot of time waiting for the little white walk sign to blink these days. I left sketch rehearsal Thursday with pals, and beelined for the cross walk even though the bar was directly across the street. "Wait, really?" the guys asked. "I have this weird thing about me," I said. "I don't want to get hit by a car." Jay-walking is the way here. We have necks, we can see when vehicles are coming, when they're not, when technology has impeded our freedom and given us a red hand despite ghost roads. I really just prefer to wait. I make a lot of decisions each day, and mostly I don't care for it. It's nice a tall box makes this one for me. Sometimes it's weird, sure, when nothing's coming and someone jay-walks right at me like, "You dummy, we're safe." But if you always wait for the light, you're really safe. You did all right. No tickets, no mistakes. It's not that I don't want to think, it's that I'd rather keep thinking about other things than the minute to minute gamble of something unimportant.

Sunday, November 9, 2014

Now Is not Always the Time to Win

Can you imagine how terrible life would be if you were successful at everything? Whatever you were interested in at five years old would be your career right now. I would be a world class grocery store toy aisle designer.

I stretched myself too thin this weekend. I got stuck in bus after bus jam after the informational meeting for a new play festival. I showed up later than I wanted to be for an ensemble audition. 12th on the waitlist. I spent most of the day hovering around the theatre, and when suddenly a slot opened and yes, actually, we were all the way to my number, I was barely prepared. I scuttled in, performed my monologue, left relieved--but much too tired to work on the play contest until this morning. If I had just picked one thing to do I might have done that one thing well.

This morning at 7 AM that's how I felt. I wrote in quiet Sunday sunbeams. I finished the piece hastily and sent it in 2 minutes shy of the 9 AM deadline. Not my best work. But every submission gets a pair of comp tickets to an upcoming preview show. Might as well.

I didn't feel bad though. Ultimately I'm glad I did both because each one gave me a personal victory. Just finishing things is, like, the best you can feel. I've said that before. Honestly, I think I was happier when I sent off my glad school apps than when I got accepted, certainly than when I graduated.

My friend Heart says "Failure is information," which is just peachy. I think of an interview from Jenna Fischer. She explained how she worked in Hollywood for eight years before landing anything tangible. How she had to learn victory for herself just by playing outside her box in an audition--even when she didn't land the gig. My victory was just doing the thing with no more than a minute's notice.  There's something pure and honey-like about knowing the opportunities we don't get go to someone else who needs them more.

Thursday, November 6, 2014


All the pieces of writing.
They resurge over time. My mid-term from Poetry II in 2009, my word.
The new play. The old revised. Like baby bunnies
crammed in the nest.
Can't possibly mother them all.
Reproduce, reproduce, reproduce.

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

End of the World

Outside the children leave the school.
There's simply nothing left to learn.
Inside the bakery the bread is warm for those without concern.

Everybody's got a care to throw.
The end is coming but we already know.
Moving bodies turning into gold.
The sky is falling and we're watching it go.

Sunday, November 2, 2014

Andrew to the Ninth Power

Halloween was the first day it snowed in Chicago and I saw Andrew McMahon for the 9th time in concert. It was, like always, a sturdy, clean set. Some SoCo, some new record, sending us off with the Jack's of pulling friends through. The Vic buzzed. A scarecrow next to me, a deer wandering near the bar, Severus Snape in the back row. Andrew himself was in full astronaut garb. He crowdsurfed his helmet. A Pikachu riffed guitar. The openers ran onto the stage in skin-tight Power Rangers 'tumes.

It was Bisque's first Andrew concert. He arrived right before doors opened toting cups of cocoa for my waiting-in-line fingers. Little stories about the commuting back to Echo Park. Mentions of the recovery, a few old tracks from People and Things, almost forgotten. Of course, "Astronaut"--thanks to attire.
The final finale was "Synesthesia." Our star crouched down to the front rows (where we were) and serenaded us. "So I never made a gold record," he sang. It was true when he recorded that song, but since his 2005 single went gold. I pointed to him and said, "But you do have a gold record!" He nodded and mouthed, "I do!" He joked with the hecklers, jumped off the piano, ended his show early enough for us to wait in coat-check, make the windy walk home, and watch Amityville Horror until we fell asleep. You're a good man, Andrew Mc.
The stars are out tonight,
One million fires burning.