Dear Kid I Used To Know

27 Apr

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Dear Kid I Used To Know,

If life is like one giant road trip, with a series of sightseeing tours along the way, you are seeing what 34 years and 364 days looks like, talking back at you, right now.

…And I need you to listen to me.

Tomorrow is a big day for you. It was supposed to be this giant arrival on a certain shore of new world launching and possibility. But from where I sit now, in the drivers seat, looking back at you through the rearview mirror, I gotta be real, and tell you: “I know you planned far ahead and worked really hard to prepare for every contingency, but we aren’t gonna make that boat, kid.”

…We’re still miles and miles behind on an interstate in the middle of two towns called  “Somewhere” and “Somewhere Else.” But tomorrow when you wake up all excited in the back seat and ask, “Are we ‘There’ yet?!?!” I’m gonna have to say “no.” And you are really gonna be pissed about it.

…But that’s why I’m writing you this letter.

I need you to hear me out.

Back when you were…well, you.…when you picked this specific destination and this specific age, it was decades before GPS and traffic bing alerts on Smartphones. Back then it was just you, a paper map, and a fist full of highlighters, attacking it with gusto and specifying the route you wanted to take to get to this big destination.

..Like everything else in life…like the homework you always did immediately to get it out of the way like the overly long essays you wrote, like the month-long projects you did in a day…like all that prep and plotting would fill every contingency.

But then, you were just a damn kid.

…You didn’t even know how to drive, let alone realize the effects of pissing down rain on the roadways, or flat tires, rocks smashing your windshield, or rush hour. You had no way of knowing, with just your paper map, the fierce amount of road work, and detours taking you five miles out of your way, that would come up over and over and over again…not to mention accidents, (yours and other people’s) which would affect heavily your mileage per day average …until year after year, little by little, these life hazards and biways had inadvertently brought you to today: miles and miles still out from your x-marked spot, circled and highlighted all to hell, like it was the 4th of July on parchment.

…Well, kid…what I can tell from here, right now in this drivers seat, to you in the rearview reflection behind me, is that shit happens. Life doesn’t always pan out how you want it to, even if you preplan the hell out of it.

(…And had you learned THAT sooner, we BOTH would have had an easier time of it…)

…But I don’t wanna beat up on you about it…I can’t charge you for the landslide (or twelve) we hit on the way. It isn’t your fault. And it’s only partially mine.

I can take some of the blame, but I will not take all of it. I am only human, and I made some wrong turns and bad detours, but we all do. And this is me, telling you: Kid I Used To Know, I am tired of feeling like a failure because every green light wasn’t with us, and every day wasn’t sunny and clear with nothing but miles of open road ahead.

…Life didn’t turn out that way.

…But what at six years old and sixteen looks like some kind of end-all, be-all place forever away enough to have reached and figured all of life out (aka: age 35), looks a whole hell of a lot different in viewpoint when you look at it from 34 and 364 days.

…I don’t wanna scare the hell out of you, but the amount of shit that is gonna hit the fan for you, ‘tween then and now, is pretty significant and life-altering. But what you can take some solace in, is that you will have made it this far, and the motor’s still running…so we have that working for us.

…We may not have reached this sailing, but the trip isn’t over yet. I’m not done fighting to get there, and it isn’t the only boat, nor is a boat the only way to get where you and I wanna be. So let’s be a team in this thing, grant me some slack tomorrow…it’ll be hard enough to face…I need you on my team.

…Alright?

…Now get back to your book, we’ve got a lot of road to cover, and it’s a clear, sunny day.

I’ll tell you when we get there.

…Til then, enjoy the read. You always did.

~D

It’s A Shitty Patch

8 Apr

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It’s a full week.

…Sleeping is spotty at best, out of control anger management issues, face breaking out, paperwork hell at work, 2 a.m. uterus cramping contractions that last for hours, rehearsals, hair and nail appointments, shopping for the show, interview podcasts, costume fittings, and family driving up for the services and wake, which I will be spending in back-to-back tech runs this Saturday and Sunday.

Theatre, ER Staff, Holy Orders, and the Military are the only professions I know of, where the expectation to show up and work through any contingency is a requirement. Even death.

…Everyone I know has performed while running a fever and puking, despite horrible stresses, sisters weddings, family reuions, ended relationships, and every major Holiday, at some point. Some then push it further through family losses, broken bones, and mental breakdowns. If theater were the Girl Scouts, I’d have earned another badge this week, by the completing achievement of “all of the above.”

…It’s a shitty badge, but for the people who wear it, at least we know we aren’t alone. There were those who came before and those who will after. It’s really the only comfort you get, because otherwise you sound like a giant mal-adjusted asshole to say, “yes, of course I went to rehearsal the day he died. What else would I do?”

…It was my job, this was my team, we had a run-through for tech, which isn’t an “option” on a fully booked schedule, it’s a demand. And so are my fittings Saturday morning, the quick change rehearsal to follow, then the Q2Q, then notes, then the same the following day. Tickets are pre-sold, Preview is in one week, and we can’t open a four-person farce without all four people.

…Which doesn’t help the stress any either, I can tell you. Because nothing at all seems funny right now, and that is also one of those, “tough shit” things I’ve gotta deal with. And I am. Frankly, better than I thought I would. Of course, it isn’t Saturday yet, when it all becomes real because I can’t push whole live people onto a back burner when they’re waiting in the car to go to a funeral while I’m trucking it to the theatre to try on my wigs and teddy with knife rig adjustments.

…I’m sure that at that point, even I will be painfully aware of how fucked up my priorities are. And I will feel like a total asshole. As I should. Because in all the professions who fight on despite circumstances like this one: ours is primarily esthetic make-believe. We aren’t saving a life, putting ours in danger, or making a humanitarian effort. At the end of the day, I’ll have done it for a farce-comedy with dick jokes, that opens in a week and one day.

…From a moral ground, I can’t back that choice either. But it’s the way of the theatre. It always has been, and always will be. And so has been my way, for over 25 years.

…This is one of those instances where, If you have to explain it to a person, no explanation will be acceptable. And I wouldn’t expect it to be. All I know is: it’s what I have to do.

I don’t like it.

Nothing is funny right now.

…And not a single patron will care, or even know, what it took to open this show next Friday.

I’ve got a job to do and I need to just hold my shit together and do it.

…So I will.

WE will.

Because: That’s the Theatre.

~D

That Was Why.

1 Apr

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Stick with me a second here…

So, I believe in God. 

…I don’t consider myself a “religious” person, but rather “a person of faith.” The difference of that I take as meaning: I am pro-rights and against hate groups masquerading under religious dogma.

…Thing is: Sure I was raised in it, but as an adult, when my politics began to swing much more central, and I began to re-evaluate a lot of the core-values I was raised with, I realized that no matter what,  I needed God. For me, he is unquestionable.  He doesn’t have to answer to any one specific religion, doesn’t care about prejudices or hierarchy, and probl’y gets as annoyed and pissed off as Abraham Lincoln, when people use erroneous  quotes he’s supposedly said, out of context, and slobbers them all over the air waves in defense of some new horrible-racist-holy-war-political-scheme they’ve come up with next.

For me: God is a higher power, who helps carry the burdens of life.  God is the being in the wind who will listen to endless hopes and sorrows, so you aren’t just flinging them to ether of “no one gives a shit.” And also, (lets be real here) God is someone I can point to when I’m pissed off at the world and say, “Well?! You’re God! So FIX IT!”

…And when God doesn’t “fix it,” I am not one of those people who takes it lying down.  I stand up and voice my particular thoughts on that, pretty distinctly.  But then, that’s just how my relationship with God roles.  I can “pretend” to be deferential about it all, and say “you know best” but if I don’t believe it, he already knows, so what’s the point of trying to bullshit him?  My God knows me. And He’s all for freedom of speech…is anti-Dictatorship…thinks a woman’s place IS to speak up…and isn’t going to smite or punish me for the way I was made. Because God built me this way.

…So when something truly horrible happens, and I decided he’s prob’ly crossed a line, and I tell him that, we both know there is no answer on earth that will possibly sooth or excuse that horrible thing for me. Frankly, the whole “human nature and freedom of choice” bit explaining why wars and genocides go on and on, is not an appropriate answer to innocent lives lost. Not when you’re God and can stop it at any moment. Plagues and cancers will never come under “justifiable suffering” for me either. Sudden accidents, weather-disaster-titled “acts of God,” and the like, are also on my list.

…And the list grows, the older I get. I try not to let it eat at me too much, but when something happens on the list which makes it PERSONAL, it becomes quite hard to just leave it be.

A little over a year ago, I had a good yelling at God for just one of those things. I didn’t understand. The illness was basic. The victim was a strong, grown man in his prime. He was a good man. Not just how people throw the word around…but a genuinely GOOD MAN. Hundreds and hundreds of people coming from all over, assured us of that. And when he died, leaving a young special-needs son behind, a whole hell of a lot of people (assuredly not just me) screamed a big, fat, hairy ass: “WHY?!?!?!?” at whatever deity they believed in. And like sometimes happens, ZERO justifiable response was given. 

…So for over a year, I’ve been mad. At God.  We’ve still been speaking and all…but that thing has been there…always in the corner.  And I thought there was just no way there would ever be a justified explanation for any of it.

Until today.

This morning, the 115th anniversary of my Great Grandma Nana’s Birthday, Uncle Big Guy’s son passed away. 

While we all knew his failing health was bringing this to an inevitable point of reckoning, and it would mean an end of so much pain and ongoing medical tortures, the concept of a thing is so different from the end of it.  And once the end came, the preparation I thought was at hand, changed.

…Because today, Nana and all her giant family of sisters and brothers and aunts and parents…,my Gram and Gramps…and Uncle Big Guy were just beginning to celebrate…in good Irish style up there… when little Nick just walked into the room.

Knowing Big Guy is up there in joy receiving his son, instead of here: totally, emotionally obliterated: losing him, changes so much about that day…over a year ago.

… I guess what I’m saying is:

“Okay, God. That was why.”

~D

Weird Shit You Do…

31 Mar

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…When You’re Prepping For A Show.

This usually means, “homework.” Not that we don’t do plenty of weird shit on stage as well…but right now I’m talking specifically about the alien feeling of being totally outside in the real world, alone, while attempting to get your brain prepped to be inside the show world.

…Because we, as theatre people, do crap that seems straight up insane to any normal person, on a continual basis, and our “safety in numbers” bit only works when surrounded by other theatre people, or marching through somewhere like Comic-Con, the Vegas Strip, or Times Square. Anywhere else, an individual talking to themselves in different accents while on a walk, just isn’t normal. And even in the free-style  Pac-NW, you get strange looks wearing 19th century hair with a tank top and jeans, while eating at Applebees. Explaining all those bruises gets long-winded, and from total outsiders may even include an embarrassing hand clutch and serious -faced, “I’m here, when you’re ready to talk or need anything”…when, “No, seriously! A 12-year-old kid did this to me!” Is all that comes flying out. Because: it’s the damn truth.

…Morning work days come where you constantly look like shit, because of staying up till all hours learning 15 more pages of text. You lack ability to talk about anything at all other than the specific time period/character type/production in general, that you are working on. You lose sleep running best prop usage scenarios through your head…over, and over, and over again, so that in three weeks when you pick up that fucking cigarette, light it, and inhale on this beat, it will look totally “natural.” Who the hell else does this kinda shit?

No one.

…Only maybe prostitutes will buy the super-sized, box of condoms every week from the same small-town retailer and keep the receipt for “work expenses,” which I did for an entire summer as an SM at age 18…because: mic packs.

…Only five-year-olds spend more time building artistic masterpieces out of scraps, play dough, macaroni, cardboard, food coloring, dollar-store items, and paint than a props person does.

…Thrift stores only exist because theatre costumers come through and regularly buy out all their estate-sale stock of 1960’s sequin “this’s,” 1950’s “that’s,” and 1940’s holy-crap-we-so-needed-these’s.

…Only a ten-year-old boy and a sound designer will listen to endless farting and snoring and blow-up noises for hours on end, to find just the “right” one.

…”Do: face-crotch hit,” “It goes: fondle, fondle, fondle, kiss,” “Grab her boob,” “Is there any way to make him more sexually uncomfortable? “ “Go at it all the way, and we’ll pull back later if we have to”…says every Director to their employees, in any comedy, ever. Fuck all the appropriate work-conduct laws in the land!

Yes.  Theatre people are freaks. We make out with strangers, get more excited about (retro) hand-me-down clothes, than a pair of Jimmy Choos, because: “that’s so my character!”…we spend days and days committing vast amounts of text and traffic control patterns in our heads, only to close a show and never use them again. Ever. Too many hours are spent on “bits” which maybe only 1% of people will even notice, and even if they do, will prob’ly never “get.” Instead of just really not liking the chick in the next cubicle at work, in our world, you still have to have a fake affair with her and sell it to 200 people a night, across two months or whatever. That sleazy creeper WILL slip his tongue in your mouth mid-performance, because there is nothing you can fucking do about it, and he knows it, and that’s just the way it’ll have to be for like the rest of the goddamn run. Until you knee him in the balls one night. None of which gets any kind of legal repercussion or write up because: we are the theatre.

…You can smoke in our workplace. You can drink there. You can even have actual sex every night, on stage.  With your significant other watching from the audience.

…Children will be awake and running blocking at 11pm on a school night during tech week because: we are the theatre.  Grown men will have total melt downs over having to wear a shirt they hate, because: we are the theatre. 

…Epic cat-battles one night, will become besties the next…real-life Soap Opera situations when “he” cheats on “her” with that other girl in a wayward “showmance”, will bring pounds of drama and gossip all-around…the props WILL break, which is possibly the only time ever that a single pencil can ruin an entire enterprise of something (certainly the best joke, anyway)…and sadly, it is often the case, that when an employee turns up lit, or high as a kite, not only aren’t they fired, they are encouraged to go speak in front of hundreds of people as a company representative…no matter how fucking sloshed they are…due entirely to the fact of: we have no understudy.

….Because: THIS IS THE THEATRE!

I have actually seen and/or been a part of ALL of those things. And I will be obliged to see and/or be a part of them all again, forty or fifty more times in my career.  Cuz it’s just the rules of the game as you play them in our fucked up little world…

…Which I’m really so used to now, that it only rarely occurs to me to be out of the excepted norm to everyone else.

…Until I go home from rehearsal, (after a long-ass day-from-hell-at-work), pour out some gin, and spend the rest of the evening  (11:00pm to whenever-on) youtubing Gypsy Rose Lee glove removal strips, S&M and tantric torture ideas involving said removed gloves, and segue (naturally) to how to keep play dough stiffer while building and manipulating phallic prop “bread dough.”

…And then try to think where to start in answer to WHS Pimp’s, “What’d you do last night?” The following morning.

…So, that was my Monday.

…Which for me is pretty normal, I guess.

…And you’ve gotta admit: that’s freakin’ weird.

~D

Dear Annie

11 Mar

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Well, my friend, as I’ve stacked two shows simultaneously after this one…I wanted to take a moment of reflection before an insanely busy weekend launches, inhibiting me completely.

…As it stands, we are three performances from where our road together ends.

…The time when both our bruised bodies and wrecked knees, ribcages stuffed in steel-lined corsets…the gallons of sweat and frustrated shared history with “that kid”…will have come to completion. I know how exhausted my body and brain is…I cannot even fathom how much yours was at final rest…but with Helen there beside you, I know it’s a peaceful, and well-loved place I leave you…until someone else picks up this script and begins the journey all over again.

I have truly treasured being a part of your world and history…learning the tiny details and intimacies of your life…the hard times and the sweet, and I’ve done my absolute best to provide the most truthful access to you that I could conceive of from months of study and communal brain space.

…I have to admit, it has been a more difficult task than I thought, to keep perspective in. Because honestly, you crack me the hell up with all your self-affacing humor in letters, your ferocious arguments in a heated moment, your stubborn refusals to back down, your imperfect people skills. But god, you were beautiful too…with your very honest, human struggles against doubt, and self confidence, and pain, and the loss that fueled the nightmares which haunted you all of your life.

I am astounded by so many things about you, but most of all, at the way you still managed to open (even if only to one person, truly) and trust enough…to “love” again. Despite all of it.

…I have loved being some far-reaching part of your existence. I did my best to do you proud, and though I could frequently hear you cussing at me and sighing from above, during manic rehearsals …I know you’ve nodded in my direction at least once or twice. Because I’ve felt it.

…A lot of actors I know, find performing actual people from history a daunting task. It’s a slippery slope that many feel caught and restricted in, which I never have. The homework only feeds me…the mindful conversations I have in my head which I have always invited the spirit or essence of such person to openly become a part of, makes me feel I’m participating in a secret interview with the past that not many people get the chance to undertake. I feel connected and energized and try to erase as much of my own judgment as I can, to keep an honest and open gateway to whatever enlightenment may come of it all. In essence, it may sound freaky-deeky, but in those moments, if I’m good and fair and trust…I am never alone…and I try to bring that with me as a host for the story being told. Frankly, I love the companionship of history and the people who make it worth remembering and talking about.

…Like you.

If you could look down right now and see what has come from the work you had started, all those years ago…I think I know you well enough to say that while not totally satisfied, you would still be proud. So many things changed for the better because of the work that you and Helen did.

So many lives.

…If you taught us nothing else, it is that every person has a worth of destiny and meaning…be they deaf, dumb, and blind, or an orphan girl with only six years of education under their belt.

…Whether you were of the inclination to believe it or not… I bet you all I’ve got, that a little boy named Jimmy…perfect in body and mind…is standing beside you right now, proud as hell, and grinning with all of his might, in agreement.

…And Helen too.

Three more shows, and I have to let you go. But before I do…wanna know my deep down secret?

In over 50 roles, you have been my most especial and absolute favorite.

Thanks for the hard, and wonderful work, Lady. In life, and on stage.

Your Big Fan,

~D

Earnest, My Lover

4 Mar

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Here we are…halfway through the run of “Miracle,” over the hump of that 16 shows in 17 days marathon, back at performances as usual tomorrow, while today I have first read to begin the next show.

It’s the first time I’ve ever remounted a role, which is going against the grain for me.

…Whatever character I take on, I put everything I’ve got into it…so good, bad, or otherwise, there is no need to revisit them to my mind.  Obviously I could have taken later lessons and instilled them into earlier characters in my career to make the work more solid, but performance art being what it is…one could always say that, then end up playing the same 5 roles your entire career on repeat.  No thank you.  I learn what I can from each, and move the fuck on.  It’s healthier that way.  Even for the ones I really, really love.

…But this re-visit comes from what I’d call “unfinished business.” And it is also allowing me to work with one of my favorite artists I’ve ever shared a stage with.  The fact we had both done the same show before, is anything but adding dust to an old already-written book, as his role has now swapped and we’ll be firing on all cylinders in a trilogy of romantic mayhems together.  Our last chance to touch upon that regime was in “Importance of Being Earnest,” where we first realized the mad-cow totally platonic chemistry we apparently swim in together…which amuses the fuck out of us both, I think…as I doubt two more totally NOT interested-in-one-another-at-all people could be found. 

…The joy of finding a performing  “yin” to your “yang,” the always “yes-man” to every idea…the person who you can literally go anywhere you can mentally and physically conceive of, on a total whim, which for some reason just always fucking works…THAT is a hell of a lot of fun to play and work with. Actual communication isn’t even a necessity of the beast…it’s like we’re artistically wired to the other’s guys idea-sector.

…Which, given that it’s period and farce, outrageous and scintillating, means I’ll have a lot to keep my mind busy and inventive, and  joyful as I wave goodbye to my favorite role to date.  The transition will be far less bumpy with a buddy at my side…several buddies in fact. 

…Sometimes being “The Woman,” ain’t all bad…

Hark, “39 Steps”…it’s me again.  Grab the wigs n’ handcuffs…eets time to plaaaay. 

~D

All The Things

26 Feb

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This just in: Kids like food fights. 

…The Student matinee this week (our 10th show in 11 days so far), was full of Elementary fidgeters,  College ASL reps, and Teachers…which showed obvious divide in content appreciation until it came to the giant breakfast battle, wherein everyone became immediately 5 years old and hypnotized by the fact that two people were slopping around with this much goop on total purpose. 

…How much we consume and throw around on stage is pretty staggering, frankly, (as provided by our tireless prop-mistress, and cleaned up by our beautiful tech team), and contains as follows:

50 biscuits, 5 dozen scrambled eggs, 5 packs of mashed potatoes, several pans of fried potatoes, 75 pieces of bacon, one bone-in ham, 30 corn muffins, 2 cakes – one coffee crumb,  one white chocolate ganache-drizzled, 5 bags of green beans, 4  glasses of milk, many pitchers of water, and several  fistfuls of candy.  PER WEEK.

…I dunno where the hell that skinny  kid puts it all, or what keeps her from puking all over everything when I continually haul her up by her guts and fling her around…but I know I’m certainly taking in the bare minimum as necessitated per the scenes. Just keeping water down with that much action in a corset is pushing it at times, but the point I suppose is that the bulk of it never makes it in a mouth at all… rather becoming graffiti about the stage, smashed into costumes, crumbed on blankets, plastered on floors and table tops, sludged on chairs, my sunglasses, our hair, and (with amazingly few instances) audience members.

As to the amount of damage we do, relocating intermission became a necessity…cutting the show in such a way as to show a fairly set divide between the more humorous and youth-filled first half and the exhausted, dogged-and-determined second.  As our run stands, the nightmares which have haunted Annie in spurts begin to slam at her directly at the top of act two, launching her further into self-doubt and a sense of impending failure if not for solving a total lack of discipline from her pupil (and most importantly her constantly-placating family.)  A cut I originally disliked, (but obviously understood the reasoning for), I have now with performance, begun to embrace. 

…What this means is a shift from prominent physical battle in act one, to mental battle in act two…though both are present throughout the show in fits and starts. Act two has become where the bulk of the “acting” comes in…where the weariness and battle of inner demons comes to the front over fists of food and face slaps, and it is also the only instance in the entire show where we are able to tackle the words of the piece without being slammed with the constant technical work going on all around us.  One scene… with just myself and the Kellers in a room with no walls, no furniture, not a single prop to be seen.  Just three people: working organically off one another, passing the ball back and forth as we fight each in our own way, for the soul of this small person. 

…It has become my favorite part of the performance.  Not for the gravitas and tears shed…but for the lock-and-load workmanship with two fine actors who know their shit, and don’t ever let go of their particular rein and purpose and intent no matter which way they get pulled  by the other two in the scene. 

…None of which should show disservice to my Helen.  You couldn’t if you tried.  She’s a regular ball-buster of performing determination. 

…But after chasing her about non-stop for over an hour, it is nice to selfishly stand on my own two feet – upright off of the floor—face two seasoned pros, and play a game of emotional poker to see who will win THIS night.

The emotional and physical demands are great, and the stakes are high for all of us in this show, but there is something to be said for the simple joy of speaking well-written words on a stage with nothing else but the story and your scene partners to guide you and make you become better at what you do, than when you first started the night.  No other “special effects” are required.

Thanks, guys.

~D

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