Monday, October 31, 2016


Last night we closed one of the coolest shows I have ever been part of--a p sweet collab between comedy and opera. I was so fortunate to be cast in such a unique process. New work development, bits, singing, tiny green German hats--these are a few of my favorite things.

Also, what a cast. Also, we were treated with such care--from free opera tickets to the wardrobe guy getting new inserts for my character shoes, I felt cherished? (Gross.) I ate a bunch of fancy cheese and two cookies in my gold sequin dress at the closing party. Walking to the train, I felt relieved in that way that ending anything makes one feel relief and a tinge of sadness, as ending anything makes one feel a tinge of sadness.

For some reason I couldn't shake this feeling of falling back in time to the prop loft of my high school. I was up there putting away stuff from the spring play my freshman year. The boys I idolized for being so hilarious would clomp up the stairs and try to rile me up by flashing their boxers or imitating my squeaky voice. I would have stayed in that final day of strike forever if I could have. "I am part of this thing," I thought, about a cruddy stage-version interpretation of a campy movie. And I could practically feel my insides glow, even sitting in the dust, even alone.

Monday, October 24, 2016

Who Loves Ya

The cool thing about grad school workshop is that people are super accountable to reading your garbage and giving you feedback. Also your group doesn't meet in coffee houses and get distracted by gossip and sometimes half the people don't come. In school you are going to meet every Wednesday at 2 PM for three hours. But in school you do not pick your people. Not at all.

I wish I had realized this as a wide-eyed candidate: if you don't like someone's work, it's probable they won't like yours. That is definitely okay, but maybe don't care as much about their opinions? By year three I knew what feedback to love or leave. And yet, I still forget this base lesson pretty frequently. And it's not just about writing. Or art.

Happened to reach out to some of my old comedy squad recently. People I think are funnier than anyone I've met in Chicago. But I had flecks of gold in my eyes then, so I could be remembering everything wrong. Initially we weren't talking about comedy at all, but eventually. I expressed I've been slumped. Immediately, my friends pummeled me with support and memories and ideas and advice. I could breathe again. I knew who I was. I remembered what I do right and what I don't care about. Duh duh duh.

For some reason we are built to strive to meet the standards of people we don't even mesh with. (Or, at least, I am.) Just because they are there? No, no, who loves ya?

Saturday, October 22, 2016

Black Mirror's Nosedive, an Allegory of Racial Privilege (Spoilers)

My body went from relaxed "Hey I'm watching TV on a Friday!" lounge pose to ready-to-pop pretzel knot over the course of the hour-long Black Mirror episode I watched last night. The first episode in the third season is called Nosedive and depicts a sunny, pastel world in which people have the ability to rank other people on a five-star system. Like, if Uber grades happened for every interaction. Lacie (Bryce Dallas Howard) is a 4.2 (not too bad) but dreams of becoming at least a 4.5 because of the perks (namely admittance to a new upper-crust apartment complex) the rank will bring. She tries SO hard to be liked by literally everyone in the world (baristas, mean coworkers) we know narratively we're about to see some major chaos unfurl. Naturally, as she tries harder, she becomes more manic plus some bad's inevitable.

The most "oh make it stop" moment for me is when she has three negative ratings in a row (a tift with her brother, bumping into a stranger, a cabbie who doesn't like her) and thus falls to a 4.1. When she arrives at the airport, she finds out her flight has been cancelled. The attendant tells her there is a ticket on another plane, but only 4.2s and up are eligible. Oh, my heart. The attendant and Lacie smile sweetly to each other and bicker in sugar until Lacie snaps, curses, and then gets dinged big time from security.

So, this is where I started thinking Nosedive is about race. Visually, the people putting Lacie down in this scene that leads to her inevitable demise are black. The attendant, the security officer...even the cabbie and the stranger she bumped. To a black person living in a white world, does it feel like this? Make a few mistakes with people who are smiling at you and your status lowers, and lowers, and then suddenly people have reason to believe you deserve worse treatment. "You did it to yourself," you know? From being loud in a cab, from being careless, from losing your temper. And of course, once people start turning away from Lacie because they see her 3, her 2 coming, she can't help but act more mad, more wild, more crude. From the moment she wasn't perfect (or, rather, someone else decided she wasn't) she was dropped so far down the ladder of human empathy, how could she resist taking a, well, nosedive?

By the end of the episode, Lacie is in a jail cell. Having hit zero, her status is completely taken away. There is one other prisoner across from her (a black man). They scream obscenities at each other, finally absolved of all consequences. They are rude but their attacks aren't personal. They are free, both near smiling at how unbound by the tethers of cotton candy world they've become as they curse each other out. Primal counterculture that someone still swimming in the system would see as barbaric.

Okay, maybe I'm taking the casting way too literally, but also the first person we encounter in exile is a black man trying desperately to bump up from his 3 status after a breakup. He is walking around giving free smoothies to people at the office. Lacie takes one, gives him a happy rating, and is berated by a cubicle-mate. Turns out the poor guy went through a breakup, and everyone is on the other half's side. Lacie is downvoted for simply accepting the guy's nice gesture. Um, this is what it was like to be friends with black people in the 50s, yes? To protect their own status, white people could not help raise the Other's.

As a white person, I DO think I gained a lot from watching the story through a racial lens. I don't think I'm racist, but who does? I am packing up the idea that an individual's status is not created by Self but rather by a huge surrounding mass of people, most with little understanding of the Self, and keeping it with me.

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Goodbye Disabilities Center

It's been almost three years since I worked at the Disabilities Center. Proctoring tests to disabled students was my part-time job in grad school. I am immensely grateful for the experience. I worked daytime only, on campus, and sometimes I was set in duties where I could read or write. The position helped me become a better teacher and certainly a much better person.

I was let go at the start of my final semester of school. I was devastated. My boss fought to keep me, but I was already a halftime instructor for ASU, and with Obamacare looming, the school was was paranoid about providing benefits. In a truly demeaning manner, the HR person for my graduate program wrote me saying I was being forced out of other work because I needed to focus on my studies. (After providing proof I had maintained an A average during my entire tenure at school she admitted, "Okay, it's about not giving you health care.")

I remember one of my last days at work. I was scribing for a student in a wheelchair who didn't have the use of his hands. I wrote out the short answers for him on his history exam. He coughed and asked if I could reach in his bag, get the water bottle, insert a straw, and give him a drink. "Sure," I said. I was holding the water to his mouth and thinking about the exam topics. I was remembering some stuff about Britain's empire I had forgotten since high school. (Another thing I loved about the job--insight to so many subjects!) He said, "Okay," and I put the bottle away. I had a conscious thought, "That would have felt weird two years ago." Even interviewing with my boss, a woman who was very slow to speak with, what seemed like, little control of her head, had set me on edge. I want to believe I was simply concerned in an interview scenario that I wouldn't nail it because I was having some trouble understanding her, but truthfully I had never spent an extended time with anyone much physically different than me. On that Arizona cool December day, while jotting down answers about British opium trade, the bitterness of being forced from my job melted. I felt a swell of thankfulness for the empathy education I had slowly accumulated without even knowing it.

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Last Night I Had Caramel Corn for Dinner

With these wonderful people from Arizona. Beyond everything there are still old friends.

Pocket change and subway cars.
Our big ideas filled empty bars.
You might be from the moon or mars.
Either way, I'm never going home.

Thursday, October 6, 2016

Boss Friends

Omaha was lovely. I went last week to visit Lavender in her new home. She has a boss job out of grad school, lives in a tiny house alone, is working hard to create a new life at 29. We talked for hours and hours and hours. I saw her theatre, her program, her hip neighborhood.

We went out for sushi one night and died to see they had vegetarian lettuce wraps which are usually chicken-involved and we miss terribly. We split two rolls--a crab thing and a vegan bbq thing. Oh divine. There were eight rolls of crab and five bbqs. We each are our halves. She gestured at the lone bbq left--the non-half, the fifth. "Do you want that?" Usually that's where I would say, "oh you have it." And so would she. Usually. But in light of being on a desert island/ inside a parachute we created with our theorizing of feminism and progress I said, "Yeah, I do." She said, "Me too." So we paper, scissors, rocked. She won and said, "Does this means I choose who gets it so I should be gracious and give it to you?" No! I said. "I won it fair and square!" She announced while plopping the bite into her jaws.

Tuesday, October 4, 2016

It All Fades

The other night on the train a teenager was telling his friends casually he was an only child but his mom miscarried twice before he came around. They hung on the loops hanging above and chewed gum.

When I was in 1st grade? 2nd? a girl in my town died unexpectedly of an aneurysm. It was sad but beyond my grasp. It was within my grasp in high school. The family with the late daughter moved from their home, and my wild friend Knoze's family moved in. She had the girl's old room. Complete with bathroom, where the child died. We would often take turns pretending to have brain aneurysms on the toilet and laugh and laugh.

I'm watching this garbage documentary about JonBenet Ramsey while I write lesson plans. I think of "Jon Beignet Ramsey." I imagine a pastry with a curly blonde wig.

Sunday, October 2, 2016

For Posterity

Texted with Ru today to pay homage to a party we went to just about four years ago. It was at Bug's house. Skars showed up as if they weren't broken up. My gang gossiped in the garage. The night ended when this group of three girls who had all taken turns making out were rolling in the gravel outside the front door. One was crying and couldn't stand. One was wearing a skirt with no underwear--flashing to goods to everyone. One whimpered, "This always happens to us." Yikes.

At the time I felt pretty busy working full time and going to school full time, but in hindsight all I remember is pulling up to the party on my brand new scooter, reading in the condo hot tub, dusting my glass desk, and over-wearing my brown floral dress. I know one day I will look back on these early Chicago years and feel just as rosy. For myself on that day, for posterity, an outline of October 1st:

8 - wake up and finish/revise a piece for my sketch class
9:30 - advanced aerobic step class followed by steam room
11 - shower and race around packing my backpack with show clothes and scripts
11: 30 - take $4 Lyft to theatre for sketch class
11:55 - run through Whole Foods across from theatre buying fast lunch/breakfast ($9)
12 - unapologetically eat chili throughout first twenty minutes of class
1:30 - on a break from class buy and consume spinach smoothie and Cliff bar ($10)
2:55 - run out of class
3 - check-in to an audition for a new show at same theatre
4:40 - dash out of the audition and once again into WF for a sushi roll ($8)
4:45 - Uber to SC ($3), scarf wasabi
5 - rapid-fire rehearsal of archived sketch show
7:10 - run to the bathroom, lock the door, flat iron my hair and throw on a dress
7:30 - perform sketch show
8:10 - get notes from director
8:20 - take the train home while answering student emails
9:05 - eat pretzels and hummus, change into casual performance attire
9:15 - Uber to comedy theatre ($4)
9:35 - orchestrate a brief hangout with and old friend from the scene in STL
10:10 - call time for improv show downstairs
10:30 - perform my first sit-in show for WNT
12 - show's over, sit in the greenroom
12:10 - walk to the train
12:40 - arrive home, exhausted but heart still pounding
1 - try to read, pass out

In summation: I spent truly all day yesterday doing comedy. I got paid zero dollars. I spent $46. I should buy stock in Whole Foods. For my first two hours of consciousness today, I stayed in bed.