Saturday, December 31, 2016

In 2016 I Got Seven Manicures And Four Massages

-Accomplished my New Year's Resolution. I can now do the splits.
-Wrote and starred in a sell-out original sketch revue.
-Toured the Caribbean and Bermuda doing five shows a week.
-Did a major revision of my musical.
-Once I didn't eat desserts for a week.
-Nominated for "Employee of the Month" by my students.
-Got a new job tutoring writing.
-Got a new job teaching kids improv.
-Was published online four times.
-Was published in print twice.
-Finished revisions 4-10 of my screenplay.
-Started a new screenplay and play. I didn't finish yet. Sigh.
-Was a semi-finalist in a playwriting contest.
-Won the first JRC scholarship at i_ theatre.
-Disney World.
-Recorded on a podcast I admire.
-Cast as a sit-in in two long-running improv shows I admire.
-Went to Spain.
-36 short-form shows in three weeks (Maine).
-Performed at two new teeny improv theatres.
-Performed at The Lyric Opera of Chicago.
-Performed on the mainstage of S______ C____.
-Performed in three comedy festivals.
-Wrote for and acted in an original S_____ C____ House Co revue.
-Wrote a solo show.
-Wrote a (crummy) television pilot.
-Wrote a (pretty decent) TV sketch packet.
-Ran a 15K.
-Mastered the "changeover" in Power Step.

Thursday, December 29, 2016


Why do you write like you're running out of time?
Write day and night like you're running out of time.

I locked myself in my bedroom for 30 hours. I started writing at noon on Tuesday. I ate a bunch of toffee and outlined as if my life depended on it. In some ways, it did. I hated myself and tried to find the muse. She didn't come. But I can push something out still. I wrote torturously. One page per hour. Second guessing ninety times per hour. Back to the drawing board. I was supposed to finish by night. I texted Puhg to bring some Pringles. I didn't come out for dinner. I ate half the can and he told me I'd regret the rest. He went to take a shower and I downed them quickly. I fell asleep defeated, woke at 3 AM, still stuck in bed, I wrote more. I don't know when I was awake or not. I went to the bathroom around 8. At 11:30 I saw the finish line. I sent a draft at 12:05. I ran two miles at the gym feeling almost free. I rewarded myself with my monthly mani pedi. I felt like part of the world again. I had a kale salad for dinner and saw Hamilton. I was worried I wouldn't be able to focus on it because my insides were shredded. My brain toasted. More nerves firing than anyone would need in a cyclone. It took me a minute, but I could embrace it. Thank you, me. Still hard to stay out after curtain call. I wound up again trying to sort through dialogue on the train ride home. I'm never not working.

I am exhausted. Still. I could have thrown away my shot. Someone ("important") asked to see my sample. It wasn't ready. I asked for more time. Is it better to get it in and fine or waiting for it and...maybe it will still be fine. I don't know. It's hard not to feel embarrassed. It's hard not to wonder if it will always feel this way and if I should get out now. We get into this because we love it. But do we?

Before bed I ask Puhg's sister if she empathizes with Eliza when she asks Alexander to go away. I see that so clearly. Leave him alone. He has a country to create. You're ignorant if you believe in vacations. But, she countered, that's when everything fell apart. When he didn't get a break. Never gonna be president now.

Monday, December 26, 2016

Jigsaw Holiday

8:30 AM Spin class. Amy Grant's Christmas album. Watching the Amy's episode of Kitchen Nightmares. Drinking grape juice from a bougie tumbler. Being genuinely excited about my new egg cooker. The annual money tree. The cutest vegan roast. A rousing game of Secret Hitler. Ho ho ho. Stuffed in a car with dogs. Mom's homemade fudge. Serious discussion about Survivor: Gen X vs. Millennials. Moving around gift puddles. And then there were two, with one cookie candle.

Sunday, December 18, 2016

Losing My Mind at a Third Grader

I had to halt after school improv class on Friday. My brain imploded, and I literally put out my hands like tiny stop signs to give an internally steaming (hopefully externally only rigid) lecturelet (mini lecture).

We were doing an ensemble monologue. Someone would stand in the middle of the circle and give a monologue. After a line of two I would pause the student and ask, "Okay, who has an idea about what might come next?" And then all the 9-year-old hands shoot up. Usually, honestly, they're already up--no matter how many times I explain, "When you raise your hand before the person has even finished their sentence, how can you possibly have an idea for what you will say next?"

People wax saccharine about the purity of children, the darling, the unconditional love. In improv, the most experienced teachers gospelize "Play like a child!"But every week I do see children improvise, and, man, they are selfish little pufferfish. Some things that are normal in the classroom: students who talk endlessly when others are on stage, students who refuse to play games they "don't like" despite never having heard of them before, students who refuse to have a three-line scene with the physically disabled student, students who refuse to stand near the hilarious and brave autistic kiddo, students who are disappointed literally every time I do not call on them, students who kick each other. I teach twelve children. Two are the exception to these behaviors. The others openly show disgust for even the suggestions of their peers. This is not all children. This is one class of third graders in Evanston. Still. We discuss respect every week, we have "positive" rules ("hands to yourself" vs. "no hitting"), I congratulate good behavior, I ask politely, I ask sternly. I try to proctor ensemble exercises. They won't.

I pump myself up before class hoping that despite the climate of the room, perhaps the lessons of teamwork, listening, and self-awareness are being internalized? Maybe specks? So, we're doing this monologue thing. B, one of the most challenging students I have ever had, is playing. He waffles between playing and not playing. He likes to sit behind the teacher's desk (not allowed), roll in her chair (not allowed), and make fun of other people's lines (not allowed) when he is not the star of a scene. The new rule is that anyone is allowed to sit, but then they're not allowed to participate until the current game is over. B usually starts sitting, then screams, "I wanna play!" and whines when he is not allowed to jump in a scene immediately. He was playing this monologue game. A girl volunteered to start. When I asked for a new volunteer, every single hand (as usual) went up. Then I chose another girl to continue. He screeched, interrupting the piece. "THAT'S TWO GIRLS IN A ROW." So I said, "STOP." I asked, "B, how many boys in the class are there?" He answered four. "Yes, and how many girls in the class are there?" Eight. I said, "Right, so in this class, girls will always be performing twice as much as boys. If boys performed the same amount as girls, that would be extremely unfair. Why should we go boy-girl anyway?" He shrugged.

I know the answer is probably that in his homeroom class his teacher calls on students boy-girl (which is disgusting and ridiculous). I don't think I snapped. I think I maintained cool, despite having to restart the activity. I know this child is merely a reflection of glass shards from the world we've given him. I'm just so tired of women being marked as to when they can and can't do things. My tolerance is waning.

Monday, December 12, 2016


Last week someone jumped in front of my train. I didn't see it. I wasn't even on it yet. It was the train that I take home after teaching children improv. I got to the train station but it didn't. The attendant told me, "No purple line." I watched literally hundreds of people walk briskly to the turnstyles (5 PM on Friday no less) and be brushed away. They were mad (I was before I knew what the hold up was).

I was in Evanston. No other lines nearby. No buses. We were told shuttles were on the way. They came, full, unable to fit a single person on. I waited for half an hour. I was supposed to have dinner with MB--visiting town--but she canceled on me just a few hours earlier. I had been sad, but weirdly it worked out because I wouldn't have made it. I was stuck.

A guy announced, "Anyone else want a lift to the Red Line?" I said, "Yes, I do!" Other people hesitated. He sort of sweetly pushed two older women to accept his offer. A Lyft came. Me and the grannies piled in the back. The guy wouldn't accept payment. He just didn't want the seats to go to waste.

One person displaced a thousand in a matter of an hour. Flood was texting me. Or was I texting him? We were trying to make plans for the next week, but I couldn't. I asked, ready to be denied, what he was doing right then. Nothing. He was even near my neighborhood. We went to Taco Bell, Marshalls, and Forever Yogurt. It was a great night. I had two auditions slated for the next day. One was cancelled. I wonder if the woman cancelling felt bad. I was happy. I already had a rehearsal and two shows to think about too. I got a headache during the first and dipped on the second. Something I've never done in my whole comedy career. I felt bad, but what do we know as to how things work out?