Sunday, March 29, 2015

Spring Break Sunday

There's a special kind of elaborate trick the other participants in the 9 AM Maximum Force Kickboxing class pull on you when the instructor says, "Okay guys, let me hear you on this next set of jabs. YAH! Let me hear you!"...and you are the only one who screams "YAH" in the studio room of forty people.

I have officially submitted my musical to a festival. This is big. The first time you send it out "there," it's real. Not perfect, but it could be real. I hope I get in. I've been getting mostly rejections lately. I think rejection always stings. I've been improving my recovery time though. I can wallow for one, two minutes tops sometimes. The more rejections, the shorter the wallow time. This is an important tolerance to build.

To celebrate Bisque and I saw It Follows which I'll talk about another day. I ate gummy bears and all of my peanut butter M and Ms. Still, I was ravenous on the way home, emotional from lack of food and probably blitzed out with PMS. Crankily I cried into the wind that I wanted Taco Bell.

It is spring break for the Chicago City Colleges. I will always remember fondly the first night of Spring Break when I was in 8th grade. My friends and I piled into the Chevy Lumina and saw Josie and the Pussycats together. We left the theatre screaming "SIX WHOLE HOURS AND FIVE LONG DAY-AYS." I wrote in my diary that I was happy.

Basic Bean pic.
My mom was visiting Friday. To kick off break festivities we saw 9 Circles, a play about an American soldier who committed warcrimes in Iraq. A little different from Josie and the Pussycats, but rather satisfying. Plus we walked half a mile for the churros she likes. I took in the lights from downtown. Even the big fat TRUMP all sparkling. I am thinking Chicago, you are not so bad. The redline was full of people getting ready to party, but I was reading A Separate Peace, ready for bed.

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Dat Art Life

Today has been a very art day.

7:30 rise and get ready for the day while listening to showtunes
9:00 read inspirational essay about originality on the train
9:30 attend a theatre educator's conference
1:30 teach a high school playwriting class
3:30 make the long commute back to the north side while listening to a improv podcast
5:00 workout at the gym while listening to the demos from my new musical
6:20: eat cheese and chocolate while reading an improv blog
7:00 perform music improv show
9:30 go to bar with music improv cast
10:15 purchase tickets to a show tomorrow
10:30 come home and write in this blog

Art all day. And today is not an exception. My life is mainly art all day. Truly, I am doing exactly what I set out to do when I accepted my seat as a new MFA candidate four years ago. And yet, so many days it doesn't seem like enough. Beyond the schedule I posted above, I got two emails about sketches to write, had to resend my film script to Shells for her most recent revisions, and get propositioned for a new comedy team. I repeat: I'm doing exactly what I set out to do. And, still yet, it can not seem like enough.

But it must. Because there is literally nothing else I can do. I have thrown myself full-force into these worlds: improv, musicals, theatre ed, screenwriting. Some days it feels there's so little to show for it. Why are my lyrics so basic? Why can't I get another joke in these pages? Will this kid ever learn? But I am doing all I can do, and if anything, I need to do less.

 I decided to spend fifteen minutes in the steam room after my work out tonight. No phone, no thinking about scripts, no one else. Just me and the steam. In the silky hot tile room, I felt truly at peace. I'm not trying to do it--I am doing it. As long as you're doing it, you're doing it.

Saturday, March 21, 2015

Gym Rat

CNN with closed captioning on. Chlorine and carpet floors. Lines of lockers. Sticky sweat rice around my collarbone. Hood up, kicks on, headphones in, out the door. Towel bins. Tile steam room. A wet hot vacuum, swallowed up whole. Pull extra hard on the suction door. Gasp at the coconut air, designer soap. Glass shower doors. Back into the night. Comedy club marquis dotting around. Salon with blinky lights. Baked chicken and pop music wafting from Brazilian Bowl.

Monday, March 16, 2015

Sweet Brown Kitty

The family cat passed away this week. She was twenty years old. She was born into a chaos of siblings, shuffled to our quiet shack, and given a partner/boss cat. She chirped like a mouse, her namesake. She was useless in catching bugs, but she did fit my hamster into her mouth once. Unlike her shifty roommate she despised the outdoors. She'd just rather not. If held to a lightbulb, she would lick it. She was a fat cat, gobbling up everything, including a basket full of Easter grass, but this past year after I took her to the cat salon for a shave, I realized she had gotten quite tiny. Itsy bitsy bird bones and shivery scalp. She was missing teeth and yowled at two in the morning like a cat pirate.

In cars she complained the whole time. She learned a cottage twice, but she spent her last days with my dad quite constantly living to jump into his arm chair as soon as he stood up. Toasty seats make good cat beds.

I don't have a favorite memory of Mouse. I guess I liked when we put a pumpkin onesie on her and she just laid on the couch like a festive slug. We never had a bond. She was just sweet and frumpy and a little clueless. I will miss her.

You can sort of be bird-brained and even a little gross, but people will still like you if you're just nice and generally happy it's another day.

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

The Book of Mormon

Four years late to the party, but I finally saw The Book of Mormon. I didn't want to listen to the music until I saw it, and it has never been in the same city as I have until now.

The production was immensely entertaining and very inspiring for me as a writer.

-Trey Parker and Matt Stone dgaf so hard about what is and isn't appropriate. This is immensely satisfying. Nothing is sacred in their work, and, really, you just have no other choice but to applaud them. I've been in writers' workshops where the use of a pronoun is debated as offensive for half an hour. While I believe we should live in as most loving and truthful world as possible, sometimes it's just nice to see a musical sequence in which Hitler is sodomizing a gay Mormon teen, and the protagonist's father is being felt up by Jeffrey Dahmer. Those things were on the Boradway stage. Those things won Tonys. In an overly PC America, it's refreshing. And it's also totally earned! Nothing is "just 'cause," and nothing else has to be explained.

-The themes of the musical were not as obvious as I thought they might be going into the theatre. Obviously, these guys aren't Morms, so there was really no chance of the production being pro-LDS. But it was remarkably even-keeled about LDS. Most importantly, nothing was made up or exaggerated. This musical literally told the Book of Mormon and mapped out young Mormon life pretty genuinely. Of course seeing any religion shown as a pageant play would be ridiculous, but nothing was blown out of proportion. It was by the literal book with, even, some helpful explanation of why some pieces might seem far-fetched.

-Music is amazingly powerful! Some of the melodies are so fantastic and hopeful, it doesn't matter if the singer is talking about Jesus "growing a pair" or a man raping babies (real topic covered), I just felt good. There are so many people in the world who don't like musical theatre because it is unbelievable or cheesy. Those people can eat rocks because MUSIC IS MAGIC. I don't care if musical theatre isn't "realistic." Why is realistic the measuring tool for making yourself feel an emotion and learn and grown and be happy?

-Stone and Parker tricked a typically white liberal older wealthy-ish audience into going to a show about something they thought they wanted to see (making fun of Mormons) but secretly made it about something else we don't love to think about in this country (Uganda). Spoon full of sugar, y'all!

-Speaking of. I had heard the portrayal of Africans was offensive in the musical. You know, it's really hard to say. What does that even mean? I'm kind of convinced any type of portrayal of an African culture seen via liberal white people can be construed as offensive because we truly don't know enough about Africa to know what's a stereotype and what is real. Like showing a Ugnada with war lords and AIDS and no technology isn't racist. It's just how it is. Maybe it's offensive to show these diseased impoverished people singing so happily, but that's satire. And also, the spoon of sugar thing.

-Speaking of Part II. There are not enough Broadway roles for black actors. Way to go, Book of Mormon for, yes, creating a heavy white male show but balancing it with a huge black ensemble.

-It was funny. That doesn't really need to be said, but, yeah, it was really really funny.

Two gripes:

-The end seemed so rushed. Like, a murderer was conquered in ten seconds of dialogue? Somehow? All loose ends were tied up in less than one musical number.

-Holy pop culture topical jokes. One character was a total I get that. And, heck, maybe darth Vader and Hobbits are timeless now. But, little jabs at OJ Simpson and Nicki just tainted the work. TO ME. Maybe that's snobby of me. Whatever, this is my blog. MY RULEZ.


The musical did have a message about faith, and it was more uplifting than one might think. Ultimately I left feeling the musical said, "Hey, people need something good and hopeful. It can be wacky and made up. It probably is. But, the feeling behind it, the spirit beyond humanity, is not. What a lesson to tackle. Hats hats hats off.

Friday, March 6, 2015


My new job makes my weeks whoosh by. It's like, "What did I even DO this week? Today? This hour?" I'm constantly crittering away, writing, and planning, and grading, and phone calls, and speed walking in the frigid winds. So, perhaps it is important to sometimes take account of one's actions.

Today I:

-woke up at 5 AM to grade papers and drink coffee with extra cream
-spent six hours in mid-term student meetings
-finished my first draft of my first ever full-length musical (!)
-loved some friends via text
-sent some key emails
-had a particularly good batch of chips from Chipotle
-watched a House of Cards
-held my big stuffed Peep close

Sparklers in Minnesota.

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Things I'd Like If I Were Very Rich

If I were very very rich, I wouldn't quit working, and I wouldn't want a fancy sports car. I probably wouldn't want any car still. I would go on some trips, but I wouldn't disappear and travel for a month right now. Not when there's so much happening. If I were very rich, this is what I'd want:

-a daily massage
-to take more cabs
-to have a room for a treadmill and yoga mats
-to join the fanciest gym classes
-court-side seats to the Bulls
-a plethora of Subway gift cards in my pockets for all the hungry people
-a big fancy shower
-a hot tub, or easy access to one
-to turn up the heat about two more degrees
-a standing cruise vacation with all my friends
-Shirley Temples at every comedy show forever and ever