Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Ghost of Comedy Past

We uncovered a DVD case of old SC revues in our prop bag this week. Friday night while everyone else partied and “had friends” I holed up and watched. I watched the most acclaimed revue from the past ten years, the one Obama himself came to. I watched the revue starring Carell, Colbert, and Sedaris. I watched the revue that bumped an acquaintance of mine to SNL. And then I found the first revue I ever saw. I held the disc in my hands tenderly. I was almost nervous to see this thing that angled me throughout my life to be where I am right now. I pulled out Easter candy remains—five Peeps—for the occasion. Watching it, remembering so much, recognizing what flew over my head and what didn’t was truly an almost spiritual experience.

I’m about to sound painfully cheesy, but (to the tune of “It’s My Party…”) it’s my blog and I’ll cheese if I want to. (Cheese if I want to, CHEEEESE if I want to.) The experience of being in my cold single, clutching my stuffed ship, hair still curled from performing as a cast member of SC transcended time. I felt like I was in middle school again discovering this smart universe of satire. I felt ancient, like I did when I heard a geisha perform in Japan—she sang and strummed like her mentors’ mentors’ mentors’ did before her. And I felt like a piƱata of gratitude. Holy cow, I work for this theatre. I have performed on that very stage.

I felt the pull of the comforter. My eyes drooped. Very strange—the actors bowed but the tape didn’t end. It was black. Wind whistled. The video recorder seemed to be outside. People walked by, on the street? Was this in the Piper’s Alley garage? Maybe just Wells Street. Very late. Must have been late. But whispers float in. Why is it recording? Is there something at the end? My room was pitch black now that the TV was dark. I felt a shiver up my spine. Was it Comedy itself calling? That scene with Bruce Willis in his office with the audiotapes in The Sixth Sense. Then, CUT. Blue screen. DVD over. Something from Chicago in 2002 trying to reach me. I wonder if it did.

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Alice in Shipland: Sick Slug 1.0

When we last left our heroine she was lonely and sad about to start yet another Caribbean tour—the ultimate impossible conundrum. Would she make it?! Guess what? She did.
-Sunday night involved waking up for dinner, eating a baked potato at molasses pace on the pool deck (fresh air) while everyone around me did the hustle, buying a ton of water and Gatorade, and curling up to watch the Katy Perry documentary, which I cried several times during.
-I have been supremely productive onboard. I write every day and have revised my musical, written the first draft of a solo show, published a theatre ed essay, and am still chugging. I hadn’t yet watched a movie. Oh, did that change. This week was about rest and survival. I pounded through episode after episode of Better Call Saul and watched both Magic Mikes.* For most of the week, a huge majority of all food looked scary and/or gross. For some reason French fries looked okay. I hadn’t eaten literally one fry since coming aboard, and suddenly, with no other options, I was plowing through multiple plates a day. Yolo.
-Major moment of hatred in Cozumel. There is a long walk from gangway to port, so middle-aged men pedal bike taxis up and down for interested cruisers. They work for tips only. As I walked slowly down the strip I heard a voice screaming behind me, “Out of the way, out of the way! He gets a bigger tip if he wins!” A woman riding a bike taxi was yelling at her driver to “giddyup” and beat the three taxis far far ahead of them. She hollered at everyone passing about how she wanted to win. She laughed joyfully. What was worse: the driver totally bought in and pedaled his brains out. He was huffing and puffing, leaning full into his handlebars, sweating madly. I was horrified and legitimately wanted to smack the woman in the face. I watched as the driver miraculously beat two of the three other taxis. A woman in the third-fastest taxi patted her biker’s shoulder in a demeaning sweetness, “You tried.” The Devil Tourist meanwhile jumped out with glee and put four crumpled dollars in her driver’s hand. In any other situation I would certainly accost her. These. Are. Humans. Not. Horses. But, I work for a cruise ship, and I can never be even remotely confrontational to a passenger. Sigh. Sigh. Sigh.
-In Honduras in lieu of a beach day I went to an animal sanctuary. It was only a few minutes away and cost ten dollars to get in. I walked through the butterfly garden and learned the park mashes up papaya and beer to get the insects drunk so they will mate more. I saw a huge-winged blue morpho butterfly! I learned about those in 4th grade through my avid playing of Amazon Trail the computer game! I saw agouti, held a kinkajou, and monkeys jumped on my head. And then I went back to the crew lounge to send a few business emails. MY LIFE.
-An hour before curtain it was decided it was my turn to host the big show. I rehearsed a couple times and halfway through standing in a spotlight giving a spiel to 1,000 people I don’t know I realized how incredible it is that that feels like nothing. I still love my job, but the magic “omg I am performing for SC!” has worn. Like how I now spend ZPill and MB’s scene backstage trying to balance a tennis ball on my hand instead of, like, soaking in how amazing the history of this theatre is/how lucky I am etc. etc. whatever and ever amen. I don’t mourn this. It’s necessary. If people were always in childlike awe, we’d just be slack-jawed tubs of blood.
-So, there were eleven Elvis impersonators on this cruise. There’s an annual “celebration” of Elvis impersonators? And this year the 300 Elvis fans gathered on a cruise ship going to the Caribbean? And I snuck into a balcony seat for the private showcase on Friday where EACH ELVIS PERFORMED TWO NUMBERS. Literal hundreds of old ladies recording a buncha fat dudes shake their hips around. Several Elvii repeated the phrase, “The more noise you make, the more I shake” and bitties would shriek. Saturday morning an Elvis stood next to me at the omlette bar. My heart quickened. He was wearing typical schlub clothes and sneakers but his hair was quaffed and he really did look like Elvis. I was actually star struck. I couldn’t look him in the eye.
-Walking forward to aft of the ship I often take the outside promenade—an opportunity for fresh air. Strangely, one can go several hours in the middle of the ocean without fresh air. I was doing a quick trot to my call on Friday and was stopped dead. The moon was brilliant. It was perfectly circle and shining like a pearl in the sky. A hundred clouds—decades deep—surrounded it. The beauty stunned me. I soaked in the light as if it were a shower.
-During the family friendly show MB and I played awkward teenagers whose parents had just married. It was New Choice, so she said she admired me for my fashion DING the amount of smores I could eat DING the fact that I could do two cartwheels in a row. I practiced cartwheels religiously during the Georgia Olympics. I was sad to learn I would never be a gymnast because I was too old when I became interested. But, guess what, years and years later I cartwheeled in front of a clapping audience, so dreams, when given enough time and sleep, do come true.
-Blue Eyes moved to Mobile after grad school—less than two hours away from New Orleans. “Sure, we’ll come out to visit,” he emailed me a couple weeks ago. What a sight for cruise life eyes! These friends from another planet! We ate chubby hipster donuts (flavors: cereal and milk and seven-layer). We walked down Magazine Street’s dozens of boutiques. I closed my eyes to suck in the honeysuckle perfuming every corner. I felt the hugeness of the world beyond not only the ship but comedy in general for the first time in a long time, and I sat in that feeling like a real cozy lawn chair.

Blue Eyes and wifey! And donuts.

*The original was excellent. The sequel unentertaining, poorly-written, and marginally offensive. Channing Tatum tho.

Thursday, April 21, 2016

Alice & Boyfriend in Shipland

 -I saw Puhg in the sunshine of the French Quarter with a duffel by his feet. I chose our brunch spot based on the name alone—Stanley—an honor to both me and Tennessee Williams. We hugged forever as street saxophonists tootled around us. The trip began with fried oysters and a long walk to the ship port.
-We went to the free Venetian restaurant and were seated at the very back, next to the windows! We watched the propellers spit up water and the sky go pink. I looked at my sweetie’s face in magic hour—golden.
-The sea day was rough for one of us who hadn’t yet grown accustom to the rocking. We read together on the deck—both books by Jon Krakauer. At night we dolled up for red bean wontons and snuck into the passenger-only hot tubs.
-I was woken by Puhg squealing “I’m up!” Finally we were in port! After a stroll around Cozumel, a stop for detergent, and an authentic Mexican feast, we bopped to the crew hangout. I bought Puhg a hipster tanktop and snorkel set for the occasion. We jumped off a cliff into the ocean and swam out to a plane crash site.
-We took a party catamaran out to sea and hopped off one at a time right over the second biggest coral reef in the world. The group looked like floating ants with their faces in the water and butts in the air. I saw so many fish! Pink and blue in schools and solo. The highlight was when we spotted a sea turtle zooming along the sand. We followed it together, holding hands.
-On the Olde Belize River we were guided to see manatees, dolphins, monkeys, cashews, pelicans, and my favorite, a collection of tiny bats! In the heat, we were passed bags of water that everyone rolled on their faces before stabbing and drinking. We ate rice and beans cooked in coconut water under a straw hut and our guide talked us through the bus ride to the Altun Ha ruins. I fell asleep like any good student in the front row.
-The ruins were incredible. “The world is so big,” Puhg had said the day before. Roatan on the map seems like a tiny island, and yet we could have explored it for a month—especially considering what’s below sea level. At the Mayan ruins I felt, “History is so big.” I walked where people made sacrifices. I did a cartwheel where a hundreds of men died. Puhg said he was going to steal a rock and immediately tripped. We both looked at the sky. Perhaps not smart to anger the Sun God. As we left, people manned card tables of plantain chips and fresh papaya. I bought a ton of snacks but only liked the coconut milkshake. Divine! The woman who worked at the stand had worked at the shop for a year and had been to see the ruins once. They are a ten-minute walk away.
-We played Marco Polo on a quiet empty Costa Maya beach and ate chillaquiles.
-The final sea day was needed. Sleep-ins, and gym, and watching OJ. We came upon MB and played a few rounds of Rummy. But I felt weird. I kept feeling weird. And then at 6 I threw up. And then I kept throwing up. The night was supposed to be where Puhg wore the one fancy outfit he brought, we took cheesy pictures on the staircases, we dined, we danced. But looks like I don’t have time to curl my hair—puke. There goes photos—out the other end. And finally, I knew I could not eat maybe ever again. My world was bile and shivering. I was really looking forward to having Puhg see me to the final improv show. It’s always such a fun night, and I was slated to play my favorite game. I waffled on calling Tail several times. Maybe it’s over? I slowly put on my pink dress and carefully crawled backstage. I did two warm-ups and said I wasn’t feeling up to it. I was green, everyone said. I missed the show. I was on, over, crying near the toilet for the next two hours instead. We ran out of water and the store was closed. I had a headache. At two AM I shuffled to the crew mess across the ship to drink two huge glasses of ice water and by the time I got back home I was chucking them up, bright yellow.
-I woke up weak but alive. I was determined to still squeeze some romance out of our last day together. NOLA City Park: Beautiful oak, historic diner, ponds of swans and ducklings. I was still not tip-top so we went slow and sat on a lot of benches. The best things: the outdoor sculpture garden—fascinating, finding a pond turtle scootin’ along that Puhg followed like a body guard until it plopped into water and swam away, and buying too-expensive but totally-worth-it tickets for the old carousel. It was almost 2 PM. I had a new cruise and he had a plane to catch. We took the kiddy train that circumnavigates all the green. My heart tore into little pieces.
-I felt choked walking to crew entrance, through security, past acquaintances in the halls with shopping bags and smiles. A cheap one was plastered on my face. I was hungry but disgusted by all food, and I opened the door to my single looking so empty. I lay down and cried, and when I couldn’t cry anymore I slept, not answering my ringing telephone or checking what messages were behind the blinking lights.

Monday, April 18, 2016

Part of Something Bigger

Why do we want to be part of something Bigger? At the Altun Ha Ruins, Puhg says he wants to steal a piece of rock from the site. When the tour disperses he finds a pebble—light green and grey. He thinks that means it’s of the old world. I wonder why this means something to him. A person with no Mayan heritage, little scholarship of ancient peoples.

Why do people take pictures with me after they have seen me do a 45-minute sketch show on a cruise ship? My face will mean nothing to them, I think. Whose face would I like to be next to in a photo? I watch the Katy Perry documentary. Night after night of meet ‘n’ greet. The same cupcake dress. Different fans but not really. Proof that they exist in the same world as this pop star. Was he looking for proof he exists in the same universe as history?

I hear a song in the morning on my iPhone, and I sing it. And in the afternoon ZPill during Rumy sings it, and I say, “I was singing that this morning” and he says, “it was just playing.” I had heard it too—but I hadn’t.

Cecily Strong says she was happy with how her Correspondent’s Dinner speech went because she got to talk about things that matter to her. To HER? I wonder. But what matters to her now matters to more, so that’s not bad at all, I suppose. The ocean has a magical quality. What is it? Is it the bigness? I touch the drop that touches New Orleans that touches Belize that touches Africa? Do we know when we reach it? Do we ever stop?

Sunday, April 10, 2016

Alice in Ship Land: Lucky Number Seven

-From the gate this week was about Getting. Work. Done. I drank a smoothie and had half an hour of pool time in Cozumel, but, MAN, did I first sit for hours at Starbucks scheduling gig dates, writing queries, finding teaching work for fall. By night, I had a better concept of my calendar for the rest of 2016, and I floated on the knowledge of shows to hang my hat on when I’m back to reality.
-I’d been outlining my solo show for the past two weeks. Enough was enough. I started the draft Tuesday. I WILL be done by May 18th when I debark.
-After last week, I needed some adventure. ZPill and I went ziplining in Honduras! It was $50 to get driven a few miles away from the ports and into the jungle for zippin’. It pattered rain, so we were the only two on the whole course. Our two guides took us up a rickey as heck hill in a truck. We bumped the whole way, and the guide kept saying, “This is the last ride in a car you’ll ever have” etc. We laughed when we got to the top. Holy cow. We were high. High high high. We hooked in and leapt. It was incredible. I was soaring over the jungle. The ACTUAL JUNGLE. I saw a paca (fat butted rodent)! We zipped all over the place, and on the last one I flung backward and did an almost handstand in the air. We came down spattered in rust and mud. I did not care. We bought $1 bags of orange juice from the woman who brings all the zip bros lunch. It was too sweet to finish.
-Wednesday night Say was featured in the production show (a janky version of American Idol) because the usual singer was ill. We hollered for him from house left, and the night seemed to be filled with a puff of celebration. I was invited to go out to late dinner, which would assuredly turn into more hijinks…but I felt shell-bound. I went to crew mart for soap and diet 7UP and also got a can of French onion dip Pringles, which I devoured while watching the Jonah Hill episode of SNL.
-There are days the soft serve is good and days when it’s lackluster. I don’t know what makes it so. Sometimes the mix-in is creamier I guess—and sometimes the chocolate has been watered down. Maybe too much ice to flavor ratio? Friday was A+. The chocolate was a deep brown and the rainbow sprinkles were out.
-My roommate has a tumbler she pretends is coffee but fills with vodka so she can carry it around the ship and drink openly from her own supply. I borrowed it for the first time to smuggle milk back to my cabin for some afternoon Captain Crunch.
-The illusionist duo on board have a three-year-old daughter. Luckiest kid on the planet—for her birthday she went to a starfish beach, did ariel tricks on the production hoops, and had a big party with a bunch of 20something performers giving her wads of attention. The birthday cake was vanilla with strawberry icing garnished with a large chocolate shell magician’s hat. At the end of the night a dancer asked, “so is that hat hollow or what?” All the cake had been carefully eaten around it. A guy took the giant knife and started hacking at it to reveal a rich fudgy chocolate center…and all the dancers and comedians LITERALLY SCREAMED IN JOY. We swarmed, taking fistfuls of cake and wolfing them down. After several hunks devoured, a teeny blonde Brit whimpered, “I feel like Bruce Bogtrotter.”
-Having other crew friends is a tricky line to walk. Some people blatantly dislike entertainers—especially the comedians who are privately contracted through our own company. I’ve come to love the port-shopping guide—probably the classiest, richest peer I have. She wears diamonds every day and totes a big ol’ prada purse. She’s allowed to do everything and be everywhere, so we can easily grab gal’s dinner. But my lil busboy friend sees me for a moment, we small talk, and then he has to scurry away. I often don’t have anything to talk about with him because the longer we talk the more obvious our extreme difference in privilege is. And yet sometimes we find ways. Maybe we talk about family or the school systems of our respective countries. This is the world in a microboat.
-Our Friday show felt like pushing a boulder uphill. We had a trio girl’s dinner, and our fabulous friend told us about a recent kidnapping that affected her and I could barely focus. I was replaying fake make-up scenes to songs. I felt disgusted with myself, but what can you do?
- I cracked open the Easter Peeps Saturday and avoided finishing my first draft all afternoon by turning my tongue pink and watching Rick and Morty. (But I DID finish my first draft at about 7 PM, writing on the floor of my cabin!) Out of boredom four of us went to a restaurant for dinner. We were served late, and when the pile of desserts came (bananas foster!) we had four minutes until call time. I announced we had 2 minutes to eat and two minutes to run. We did, leaving a soppy pile of vanilla ice cream behind.

-In the Adult Show I created a game where when an ensemble member asked a question in a scene (an basic alleged improv no-no), they would have to take off an article of clothing. Oh boy. Folds went all in and asked seven questions off the bat. By the end, he was in a tiny pair of bright blue boxers.