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Cinderella Re-write

13 Feb

And now for some more sharing of my homework!  Last week during my (super-fun, seriously – I cannot shut up about it) writing class at The Second City, one of our homework assignments was generated by us each choosing a well-known fairy tale and suggesting 3 peripheral characters that might have been involved but weren’t mentioned in the original story (ex. the 3 little pigs’ neighbor).  Then the class voted on which character they’d like to hear more from, and we each wrote a monologue from the perspective of that character.

I chose Cinderella.  The three characters I pitched were:

  • Cinderella’s living grandmother (why wasn’t C living with her?!)
  • The wicked stepmother’s boyfriend
  • Cinderella’s feminist best friend

My class voted overwhelmingly to hear more from the perspective of the wicked stepmother’s boyfriend (side note of sadness – the class voted overwhelmingly to hear from male characters in 7 out of 8 instances.  Sigh.  Rage.  Mandate to be part of fixing this).

Anyway, below is what I came up with.  I was trying to do a few things here in addition to just completing the assignment:

  • Give the character a specific voice that wasn’t my own (so here I tried to create a white, late 20s, washed-up frat boy).
  • Transform some aspect of the story
  • Crack some jokes that are specific to the story.
  • Write something with a clear beginning, middle, and end.
  • Push some aspect of my own agenda/point of view

Again, admittedly not the greatest thing ever, but I think I’m learning how to do some stuff (and no matter what, I’m having so much fun in a space where I am not in charge of managing whining – my teacher does that).  So here-a we go:

 

I mean, I knew she wasn’t, like, a good person.  So, you know, I’m-a be straight about that.  But you get to be a certain age, and you’re still cleaning moats, and like, whatever, a man does what he’s gotta do.  And for me, bro, that was, like, I gotta do Karen.  You probably know her as Cinderella’s stepmother, but to me, she’s just, like, a nasty cougar with a dead rich husband that I bagged on the job to get at that cushy life.  I’m not bitter – it’s not so bad.

Now that you’re asking me though, actually Cinderella and I have some stuff in common.  I don’t want to ruin the fairy tale or whatever for you, but, like, I know a fellow hustler when I see one.  We’re both just doing what we do to keep our meal tickets happy and off our backs (in my case like, for seriously because that hag is into some weird dirty shit.  (shiver))  Life pushed us into a corner and we’re, like, scrapping like whoa to work it.  Bob and weave, baby.

She had the short end of the stick, though if I’m being real. Like, I know it’s the 17th century and everyone is all, like, “equality” and shit, but I mean, I still know on the real that stuff is easier for me because I’m-a dude.  I mean, I was basically all “buy me a fucking lute” and Karen was all (low gravely voice) “oh, here’s your lute, baby.”  But the Prince – there’s no way he would be cool with that.  Cinderella had to play it smart, er, dumb, er, fuck man, even just talking about it, –  that shit’s complex!  Cinderella was all like (wispy, space-y, girlish voice) “I’m shy, oh, my shoe fell off and I can see it, and like, I have time to longingly make sexy eyes at you but I don’t have time to bend over for my shoe, because I’m late for my pumpkin car – it has limited magic, oh, oh”  Like I don’t even understand the reasons behind her weird-ass decisions, but whatever – that girl knew exactly what she was doing.  Tough as fucking nails – wearing that insane dress that was covered in mouse poop.

She did it though – bagged her a comfortable life.  In a different, like, circumstance or whatever, we could have really been something maybe – two star-crossed hustlers selling fake tonics on a cart or whatever….  Cinderella, wherever you are, I wanna say that I hope that prince is gone a lot, and that you get some time to yourself to just, like, read magazines, or eat breast cancer research yogurt, or just, like, do whatever regular girls like to do.  And Cinderella, more than anything, I hope you don’t have to do weird sex stuff with your lute.

 

For next week, I pitched several sketches and the one that was chosen is about a rebellious Christian fundamentalist daughter trying to talk her liberal agnostic dad into throwing her a purity ball for her 16th birthday.  I’ll be sure to let you know how that goes.

Have a great week!

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file under “didn’t make the fridge”

12 Jan

Oh the shame of wanting so badly to be good at something and being so…. badly at it.  See?  See what I mean?

As I’m sure you know (since, let’s face it, you’re here and are tracking the minutiae of my life in this season for whatever reason), I’m a student in the writing program at The Second City.  Big whup, right?  Right.  I completely agree – as I have made clear previously, I have no delusions of grandeur.  Oh, er, in case The Secret is reading, I’M AWESOME!  I CAN DO IT!  I’M VISUALIZING SO MUCH SWEET STUFF!  I’M WEARING GOLD UNDERPANTS  (unfortunately yes, that is the first idea my brain generated from the prompt “life of luxury and success.”  I think we’re finding some clues here, guys).  So, with that out of the way, do you want to see what I made at my first class?  I thought so.

I’m not sure how proprietary the teaching techniques are in this course, so I’m not going to go into detail about how our instructor got us to this point.  But know that it was AWESOME.  It kind-of blew my mind.  Based on week 1 alone, I recommend that if you have some disposable income/a sugar-daddy, you should definitely take a class.  Anyway, I’m sure I can share that using two different but similar writing exercises, we created two characters and then took 5 minutes to write a 6 line dialogue between the two of them.

This is what I wrote:

Celia:  I guess more than anything, I just don’t understand why you care so much about me saying “thank you” every time the server refreshes my water.

Shannon:  Celia, it’s because I’m trying very hard to help you become a more palatable person.

Celia:  You’re saying “palatable” to me, at La Senorita.

Shannon:  Honey, if you say “thank you” at La Senorita, I promise I won’t say another goddamn word.

Celia:  Nice, mom.

Shannon:  Celia, please.  Just do this for me and stop being so awful.

Good?  Nope.  Something I’m proud of?  Not especially (other than that I did, in fact, sit there and write it despite the fact that I could feel it sucking as it happened).  But I’m starting something.  I’m learning.  And goddamnit, I’m going to get better.  I’ve been trying to write dialogue all week during snatches of free time and let me tell you, it’s hard, yo!  Another way to say that is “I’m bad at it!” but I’m trying hard to be optimistic and positive – suppressing all of my instincts is another new years resolution that I’m half-heartedly working on.

I also engaged in this dialogue today with Jack, an internet troll who likes to terrorize my friend’s (very excellent) blog.  As loyal readers may recall, Jack and I go way back.  My pal is a badass journalist, and an all-around swell human being, so I feel a sense of duty to try and irritate Jack, since he’s such a prolific dick.  I usually have a rule against meanness in my writing/jokes (I like how this implies that I write enough to necessitate policies), but Jack provides a justified exception. Again, probably not my finest work, but you know what?  They can’t all be winners.  Or productive.

If you want, any of y’all that are in Chicago (or have road-trip fever) can come see me dance to a text that I wrote that I actually do think is kind-of a winner here.

Rehearsal Today

5 Jan

This morning, Ida accompanied me to rehearsal.  I am working on a piece that I presented for the first time a few months ago called Best Wishes.  It will be presented in a couple of weeks as part of Rhino Fest in the Food and Performance Cabaret.  I get to do it on 4 consecutive Mondays in January and February.  As I planned my rehearsal schedule for this show, I decided that it would be loads easier if I just took Ida with me.  I like to work early in the mornings, often, and for short periods of time, so coordinating childcare is nightmarish.  I also decided that Ida would probably enjoy these outings, and would probably be a very nicely behaved companion.  I congratulated myself on making a well-reasoned decision, and for not putting off the planning until the last possible minute.  Being organized feels so satisfying.

We woke, I gave Ida breakfast and got her ready, and then I rushed around trying to get myself ready (abandoning breakfast and a semi-urgent shower in the fray) and gathering our supplies.  I was feeling harried and irritated that I hadn’t just arranged for someone to look after her.  I felt the injustice of living with a two-year-old’s sense of time and urgency.

  • Use toilet:  5 minutes
  • Put on shoes, coat, gloves, hat:  2 minutes
  • Negotiate and broker willing participation in the above activities:  45 + minutes

We got out the back door, me having just eaten a fist-full of cold spaghetti for fortification, and briskly hustled down the alley and to the train.  I swiped my transit card, ushered Ida through the turnstile, yanked on the stroller-handle to fold it up, and dragged us and our baggage up the two flights of stairs to the platform.  We just made it onto the train that pulled in as we rushed up the last few steps and instantly knew who in that train car has done this before (look of solidarity) and who has/will not (irritation upon getting banged in the shin with stroller – not that I really blame them, but what exactly do they suggest I do?).  We sat.  We exhaled.  We watched as neighborhoods came and went.  Ida and I both love riding the train.

We arrived and walked to the rehearsal space.  More stairs.  More schlep.  I tried to focus my attention on being grateful that my strong body could move and haul with relative ease.  It helped.

Ida was nervous to enter the rehearsal space.  She’d been there before to see me perform, but something about it made her scared this morning.  She took my hand and was, like always, very brave.  We set up our stuff.  I explained again what we were doing here.  “Mama is going to do some dance work now.  We can share this space for the next hour – you can play with your toys, eat your snacks, or you can do some dance work if you want to.  Please don’t touch the stereo or my laptop.  And please don’t yell.  There are going to be sometimes this morning when I won’t answer you if you ask me a question or need help – I’ll be able to do it in a few minutes, but sometimes I am going to be busy even though I’m right here.”

I started warming up.  Ida watched for a few minutes and then joined me – walking around the room, rolling her head, moving her arms.  It was beautiful and so much fun.  For the rest of the rehearsal, she would alternate between snacking/playing in a spot in the folding chairs set up in the back, and dancing with/near me.  It was peaceful, and easy, and even better than I imagined it.  It worked.  More than that, I loved it.  I really like being alone, but sometimes being alone in rehearsal feels endless in the bad way – empty and cold.  Ida provided warmth and accountability.  She would know if I just sat there staring off into space rather than dancing like I said I would.

Later in the hour, it was time for me to do a run-through of the piece I’m working on.  I explained this to Ida and asked if she might like to draw.  She said yes.  I started and had a (predictably) rough and frustrating go of it – this piece has been sitting unattended for a long time and I knew it would be tough to get back in, having had this same experience the last time I worked on it.  “This is why I’m rehearsing” I reminded myself.  Although, that makes having to perform shitty run-throughs only marginally more palatable.  Improvisation is no joke – the idea of “making it up as you go” seems so care-free and easy, and it can be, but, in my experience, it only becomes easy and fun after you’ve worked really hard at it – turning the possibilities inside and out, tearing out seams, adjusting, calibrating feelings/presence – basically just being tenaciously bad at it until you start being good.  Showing up.  Laying your self out for it.

Anyway, I’m thinking about all of these things, and slogging through this run-through that just will not end, and doesn’t seem to ever be going well, and suddenly Ida is standing in front of me.  She’s holding up a granola bar and she says “Please open this Mama.”  I know what I said, and I’m a big believer in consistency, but it was exactly what I needed, so I did it selfishly.  My own recorded voice was reading this overly emotional thing about baking bread and then my daughter was right there and I was already so far tangled in the weeds, so I reached out and opened the granola bar.  I did it improvisationally.  I did it with my full attention.  Ida took a bite and then offered me some.  I took it and the moment deepened and became even more perfect.  And I finished the run-through – breezed through it – coming to the end feeling grateful to have been in it rather than grateful that it was over.  More than anything, I finished feeling grateful for Ida.

In a minute after I finished, and before I needed to start hustling Ida into her winter gear and out the door so that the next artist could get into the space on time, I wrote this about our morning:

1/4

Ida with me at rehearsal.  She walks in circles, rolling her head – just like i walk in circles, rolling my head.  We’re warming up.  This is a huge success.  She is engaged, interested, and free – sometimes participating as a mover with me, sometimes as a watcher.  She claps.  I realize, at one point, that I’m sick of working on this, and she offers me a peeled clementine – the first time she’s done this without help.  I start the run-through – the thing we – I – came here to do.  She watches for a while, and then I catch a glimpse out of the corner of my eye.  She’s entered the dance space, left her folding chair surrounded with notebook, pencils, charlie brown and her dustpan and broom.  She is bringing me a granola bar as I hear my own voice recite a slick/sweet thing about baking bread.  And all of a sudden, a shift -we share the granola bar, performing, eating, blurring even more the lines between us, our work, our roles.  Wednesday morning.  We are learning.

Resolved!

3 Jan

And now, without further delay (since I have already been a few days late in sharing this breaking news) I present my 2012 New Years Resolution in two parts:

1.  Become ever more obnoxious

2.  Find new ways to communicate these developments

You might be thinking “Wow.  These are lofty goals!  Liz is already so obnoxious!  And with an ample (if poorly spelled) vocabulary!  And a blog for sporadic communication to tens of readers!  What could she possibly do to satisfy not just one, but BOTH of these ambitions?”

Well, dear readers, prepare for a truly elegant solution:  I have recently matriculated as a student in (so far) good standing at The Second City!  I have a shiny new notebook, and a Pilot V-ball pen and I’m already planning my back to school outfit.  Okay, well, no.  That’s not totally true.  But “notebook” and “good pen” are listed along with tampons, batteries, and a candy thermometer on a list entitled “Go to Target Today, You Lazy Jerk.”  These items are, in case you were wondering, for separate projects.

I have signed up for Writing 1!  And as I’m sure you can gather from all of the exclaiming, I’m feeling pretty excited.  I attended New Student Orientation on Saturday, where I met the former (current?) dungeon masters, and the over-40 pre-discovered starlets who will be my fellows.  I think we might safely be able to add comedy to the list of things we don’t want to see being made (this is not including the prerequisite messed up childhood part, which, if the Lifetime network has taught us anything, is pretty compelling if a little disturbing viewing material).  I mostly sat there deciding which camp I fall under, and eating up all of the high-energy gospel of The Second City.  I think I might be joining a cult.  But still, excitement!

We were gently-t0-ardently urged to abandon all hopes of professional success in comedy (done, and done!).  I can’t quite figure out why they did this, though, considering that this sort of talk is like a speed-protein shake to kids who grew up with any sort of theater experience.  Can other formerly fabulous theater/dance/music kids back me up here?  Is this specific to my time under various dance masochists/motivators?  In any case, for those of you not familiar with this feeling it goes like this:

Respected Mentor With Boundary Issues:  “You’re never going to Make It, ______!  Dancers/musicians/actors/carneys are a dime-a-dozen.  You will work as hard as you possibly can for your whole life and still never Make It.  Wanting it is not enough.  Not by a long shot.  I’m telling you, if there is any other thing that could possibly make you even fractionally as happy as this thing, do that thing instead.”  (there might also be some kind of unpleasantness like “You’re going to end up a whore/waitress just like your mother!  Slap!  Now get back to shelving those cans!” – though nothing like that ever happened to me.  My mom taught Jr. High).  “Making It” is never, ever, under any circumstances, defined.

Aspiring Whatever:  no words.  We watch as steely resolve begins to radiate from ______’s eye-holes.  We know, for certain, that ____ is going to become a (insert whatever thing she wants to become against-all-odds here) or die trying.  We’re excited to watch either way.  This is usually followed by a montage, which, just to slide a feminist nudge in here, is usually fitness themed when a lady is the protagonist.  Hmm……  Even when Elle Woods wanted to become a lawyer, her first instinct was to hit the treadmill to the dulcet tones of a pop-licious song.  I digress.  The point is, the hopelessness only seems to make the aspiring grow stronger in her resolve while also making her feel so goddamn special because she KNOWS she’s going to Make It (still unclear, probably even to her) while so many others aren’t!  She’s high as a kite!  She’s mere steps from taking over the world!

So, basically, I sat in a room with a couple hundred people, many of whom were visibly experiencing the above summarized surge of mania.  I had a little bit of a contact-high, but otherwise, managed to maintain my usual pessimistic, 30-year-old-directionless-mother-of-a-two-year-old outlook.  I did, however, get pretty excited about the prospect of 3 weekly hours of adult (?) time (NOT including the bus/train ride!  Score!) where I’ll get to work on something I’m interested in.  I’ll be sure to share any especially great happenings along the way.

 

Easter Inspirations

21 Apr

Remember college?  Man, I sure do.  I loved college.  College was my favorite (except for right now, which is also my favorite).  I found out that I wasn’t stupid!  Readers who spent their youths perfecting dazzling jazz dance routines and singing soprano can understand what this revelation meant to me, and why it came as such a surprise.  Well, a more accurate description might be that I discovered that I was arm’s length from this particular kind of smart with the ability to generate pensive looks and a tolerance for silence that made up the difference.  In other words, I am one hell of a faker, which is almost better if you want to know the truth (turns out that jazz dancing and singing soprano have paid off after all).  Less burdensome.   I quit singing seriously.  I underlined.  I highlighted.  I spent a lot of time sitting still and wondering if anyone was looking at me.  I wrote furiously scribbled essays on both Old and New Testaments of The Holy Bible in cursive (because one of my religion profs. was apparently a member of The Church of Cursive Penmanship – seriously, I’ve not experienced such zeal since).  Speaking of religion and college, I remembered a college story while I was making dinner tonight and since it made me laugh out loud and splash daal on my shirt, I thought you might enjoy it too.

I was fortunate enough to take lots of fun and interesting classes while I was diddling around in the world of higher education, but a stand out is definitely a religion class I took on the topic of Adam and Eve.  This class was taught by a very cool and hip professor and was populated by several of my friends, two ex-boyfriends (Hey!  I was a GIRL in the philosophy department!  What do you want from me?), and my future spouse.  Good times all around.  Plus, you know, lots of interesting discussions and assignments and stuff.

One member of our class was a stalwart college archetype – the stoner/thinker/bathrobe-as-outerwear-trendsetter.  Sam.  I had a few classes with Sam and always found him to be a delight.  He made some particularly show-stopping/train-wreck arguments during a small seminar of the works of David Hume.  I seem to remember something about zombies…  Sam had a strict “no reading, no writing” policy when it came to his college education.  He also had a flexible understanding of “attendance.”

Like marshmallow peeps, or light red kidney beans – nobody was ever clear on Sam’s function or purpose, but that didn’t seem like the point anyway.  One day we were discussing the origins of the names “Adam” and “Eve” and we were asked to speculate (after some instruction on the language, history, and yada yada) as to what significance these names might suggest.  No doubt hyped up on talk of linguistic origins and the deep meaning of it all (and, I’m pretty sure, aided by some fantastic substances), Sam suggested that the name “Adam” was probably a reference to – and I remember this so precisely – “man’s infinite smallness.  Like, you know, atoms?”  Sam was so pleased.  His mind working at a mean clip, he was putting all of the pieces together.

I’m sure you’ve had this opportunity at least once, but I’m here to recommend that you should always relish it when it comes along.  It’s not often that you get to see a professional person deal with madness on this level, and it’s especially rare to get this sort of action in a public forum (such as a large class).  I find that I can learn almost everything I care to know about a person if I’m lucky enough to witness them in confrontation with bat-shit-craziness like this.  So many things to say.  Like, maybe that the words “Adam” and “atom” probably aren’t as similar sounding in hebrew.  Or that atoms weren’t so much understood in the author’s time and so the relationship, even just conceptually, is probably a non-starter.  Or that you’re wearing a bathrobe to a planned engagement for christsakes.

I don’t respect a person who talks right away.  If they have a plan in place to deal with this sort of thing, I feel uneasy about what else they might be incubating upstairs.  I like what my professor did.  He waited for a respectful time – letting the class enjoy the possibility of this radical and hilarious idea – letting Sam experience the flawless feeling of having an idea and knowing that it is awesome.  Then he just said, without any meanness or despair, “I don’t…………… no/know.”  And then he shut it down and took Sam to school utilizing a satisfying combination of the socratic method and naked sarcasm.

I always wondered what he was thinking in the space between “don’t” and “no/know.”  I still think and wonder about which no/know he meant.  Sam, as you may have suspected, was completely undeterred by this lack of confirmation for his theory, and made it clear that he was pretty sure he was right about all of this.  Sam’s chops were bust-resistant and the more he thought about it, the more evidence he discovered to support his theory.  We were not privy to this information, but that was largely irrelevant as it had become clear that we were participating only insofar as witnesses.

While this story cracks me up, it also inspires me.  What must it feel like to go through life like Sam did/does?  Sure at the instant you form a thought that it’s right – that it’s perfect – so perfect in fact that no amount of reasoned criticism can remind you that you’re not an expert.  Free from the feeling that you have no right to trust your ideas.  In my life as a dance improviser, this is always the lofty (and sometimes seemingly impossible) goal that I aspire to.  The ability to always say “yes.”  The suspension of judgement.  The willingness to go, totally alone, into new space.  It’s more than just saying “who cares?”  It’s the forgetting that there is even a “who” in the first place.  It’s ordering something that’s not on the menu with full confidence that it will arrive steaming hot before you.  It’s very Easter-y in a way.

So here’s to Sam, and Adam and Eve, and to the luxury of a deeply pleasurable education followed by a degenerate life in the arts.  Cheers.